Idaho official: Hometown support is firm for Bergdahl family

AP News
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Posted: Mar 25, 2015 5:50 PM
Idaho official: Hometown support is firm for Bergdahl family

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Before he was a soldier and a captive, before he faced military desertion charges, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was a local kid living near a small Idaho town.

Although the "Bring Bowe Home" posters and yellow ribbons have long since been removed from the light posts and store fronts of Hailey, Idaho, Bergdahl and his family still hold a place in the community's heart.

"Nobody could have predicted that a man and a woman who have a family here, that their son ends up in this kind of notorious situation," Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen said. "There's still a family that lives there, and will continue to live there presumably, and they will continue to need support. They will continue to find it in their home town."

Bergdahl was charged Wednesday with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. His father, Bob Bergdahl, didn't immediately return phone messages left by The Associated Press. Other residents who have previously been vocal on the case declined to comment.

The town of Hailey — generally known as a quiet vacation spot for celebrities looking to escape paparazzi and the pressures of being in the public eye — had found itself in the center of an international news story last year after Bergdahl was recovered from the Taliban by special U.S. forces in Afghanistan as part of a prisoner swap. In exchange for Bergdahl, the U.S. released five Taliban commanders who were imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Business owners and local officials were besieged with angry phone calls and nasty emails and online comments last year when news broke about the prisoner swap. Ultimately, the community cancelled a planned celebration dubbed "Bowe is Back" amid security concerns.

Today, the town is mostly back to normal. Yet like other residents, the county commissioner had been on alert waiting for news of the charges.

"What we said — all of us who were kind of coping with the global interest in the story last time — is let's wait and let the military judicial system run its course. I think the people in my county will accept the results of the investigation," he said. "No one in my community has ever said that he deserves special treatment ... Bowe doesn't lose his humanity just by virtue of being famous."

Residents won't be thrown off track by "this really difficult and complicated story," Schoen said. "We have a strong and close-knit community and if there are negative things said about Sgt. Bergdahl, we will deal with that."

U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, a Republican from Idaho, said that while he knew the news was disappointing for Bergdahl's family and friends, the military's decision to charge him wasn't a surprise. Simpson said judgment should be withheld until the military proceedings have concluded.

State Rep. Christy Perry of Nampa, who has a son in the military, said she was disappointed by the news. "He has certainly paid for whatever he did. He spent five years in the hand of the Taliban," Perry said.

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Associated Press writers Keith Ridler and Kimberlee Kruesi contributed to this report.