From saving private Ryan to saving sergeant Bergdahl…

June 8, 2014

In commemoration of D-Day there was that movie a few years ago called “Saving Private Ryan”. But the best we could come up with in this day and age, just having marked the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, is “Saving Sergeant Bergdahl”. He being the runaway PFC in the Afghanistan war who was for no apparent reason promoted to sergeant while in captivity.

Details of his desertion or whatever it might be called still seem to be murky. And while some accounts paint him as a soldier who preferred not to fight others say he was quite enthusiastic, although he may have preferred the idea of helping civilians in Peace Corps fashion. There just seems to be differing accounts. There still is no one version of how he escaped his duty station or what his intentions were, although it seems to be established he did leave his post in an unauthorized fashion. He was captured by the Taliban enemy. And now he has reportedly told medical personnel in Germany that he was tortured while in captivity. That has not been confirmed but one would expect that. One wonders what he could have been thinking. If he did not like the conditions in his outpost did he really think he could find better outside walking (running) through the desert where is would surely be captured by an enemy known for lopping people’s heads off?

But I don’t want to come off highly critical of Bergdahl. I know what it is like to be a confused young man. It just does not seem we can paint him as some type of model soldier (as had been attempted). I don’t know maybe he was on some kind of covert special mission (not likely).

And back to the heroes of D-Day. It’s not like in the movies (well the standard patriotic ones), even in our so-called successful and more favored wars, even in those there were deserters or those who shirked their duties. Pity poor private Eddie Slovik in World War II. He deserted his unit in Europe as thousands of others had done (he having decided facing enemy fire was not for him), or got separated and did not bother to go find it. But Gen. Eisenhower made the final decision that an example had to be made. Things were getting out of hand. So he was executed. The poor guy thought he would just be court martialed and get credit for time already served in the stockade and then go home. I read one book that said that Gen. George Washington during our Revolutionary War at least one point had to ride among his troops waving his sword threatening to execute them if they fled the field of battle.

No one can know what he or she might do faced with the prospect of flying bullets and shells and improvised explosives until, well, faced with that. It’s probably situational — I mean if one is in a no-choice (nowhere else to go) situation, then he or she is more likely to look brave. And then of course there are the brave or fearless.

War is hell for those actually under direct fire and no one should have to endure it, and yet no one has figured out a way to prevent it. Simply refusing to take part does not necessarily work. The forces of evil are glad for you to stand down. They want to take over.

But that does not mean we always have to fight in every situation. There has to be some direct interest. It also has to be practical.

I heard a good quote on a radio program earlier today. It was something about various humanitarian organizations wanting to help the distressed people of Syria in the ongoing internal strife there (to include the possibility of inserting troops). How do you help people without doing more harm than good? That was not the direct quote but the essence of it I think.  In that case it is hard to tell who the good and bad guys are. Although Assad is a tyrant and responsible for ordering gas attacks on his own people, the so-called rebel movement is infiltrated with Islamic terrorists while is said that Assad actually supports a more pluralistic society (well someone said that).

We had an advantage in World War II in that there was a clear line of demarcation between good and evil. The German Nazis clearly represented evil. The allies represented freedom.

(And I am not forgetting the other front against the military-led government of Japan.)

The United States came out as the leader of the free world in that war.

But the nature of war has changed and indeed the world has changed.

Something that has not changed, though, is the constant human struggle for land and resources and power over others, really the cause behind all wars.


Read that Sergeant Bergdahl’s father has received death threats. Those threats no doubt are coming from the misguided or the just plain mentally deranged. Nothing they (father and son) may have done can be worse than the actions of those who make such threats.