No hero’s welcome for Bergdahl: National uproar prompts cancellation of return home party

There will be no hero’s welcome for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in his hometown, no fanfare of parades, music or picnics in the park.

HAILEY, Idaho — There will be no hero’s welcome for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in his hometown, no fanfare of parades, music or picnics in the park.

A celebration planned for the end of June marking his return after five years as a captive of the Taliban in Afghanistan has been scrapped, largely due to security concerns as his release has touched off a nationwide debate.

Was Bergdahl an American prisoner of war who should be welcomed home after years in the enemy’s hands, or a deserter who should be punished accordingly?

For those who knew Bergdahl and his family in this small central Idaho town, the politics of war have no place. They just want Bergdahl back home.

“It’s like a modern-day lynching. He hasn’t even been able to give his side of the story yet. This community will welcome him back no matter what,” said Lee Ann Ferris, who lives next door to the Bergdahl family and watched Bowe grow up. “He’s a hometown kid and he’s already suffered enough.”

The town of 8,000 has been swamped with hate mail and angry calls, labeling the 28-year-old Bergdahl un-American and a traitor. Given the prospect of large crowds on both sides of the debate, organizers cancelled their welcome-home celebration.

“If you had 10,000 people, 5,000 on one side and 5,000 on the other, then just due to the national attention, we don’t know what to expect,” Police Chief Jeff Gunter said.

Hailey Chamber of Commerce President Jane Drussel said she and the organization have received angry mail and calls from people lambasting the town’s plans. “The joy has all of a sudden become not so joyful,” she said.

Bergdahl was captured after walking away from his unit, unarmed, in 2009. He’s currently at a military hospital in Germany, where he was reported in stable condition.

His parents have spoken publicly only briefly since his release. Several cars were parked outside their modest home Wednesday behind a closed gate with signs that read, “Guard dog on duty” and “No Trespassing.”

U.S. lawmakers and others have also complained that Congress should have been consulted about the prisoner exchange, that the deal will embolden the Taliban to snatch more American soldiers, and that the released Afghans will filter back to the battlefield.

A Taliban statement quoted leader Mullah Mohammad Omar as saying the release of the five Taliban was a significant achievement. President Barack Obama has defended the swap, citing a “sacred” obligation to not leave men and women in uniform behind.

Hoping to ease mounting criticism, officials from the State Department, Pentagon and intelligence agencies briefed senators behind closed doors Wednesday evening. They showed the lawmakers a 1 1/2-minute video provided by the Taliban that proved Bergdahl was alive and indicated to the administration that his deteriorating health required quick action.

The administration is required to notify Congress 30 days before transferring detainees from the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but the White House thought waiting was too risky — that too much could go wrong in a month so they went forward with the fast-moving negotiations.

Some of Bergdahl’s former comrades have complained that U.S. soldiers died during the search for him after he walked away, a charge the military has not confirmed.

U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Army will review the case.

Just Posted

Man arrested in connection with violent home invasion

RCMP Emergency Response Team deployed

Gesundheit! Stifling a sneeze can cause injuries in rare cases, experts say

TORONTO — With cases of flu continuing to rise in Canada, there’s… Continue reading

‘Reprehensible’: Trudeau abortion policy raises ire of U.S. right

WASHINGTON — In what’s almost certainly a first in the lengthy history… Continue reading

Japan public TV sends mistaken North Korean missile alert

TOKYO — Japan’s public broadcaster mistakenly sent an alert warning citizens of… Continue reading

‘I shouldn’t have to have a husband:’ Winnipeg woman criticizes men-only club

WINNIPEG — A former chair of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce says… Continue reading

Replay Red Deer Jan. 14: Watch news highlights in pictures

Stories mentioned: Red Deer RCMP seize large quantity of cocaine: Read more… Continue reading

Advocate poll takers oppose plastic bag ban

Red Deer Advocate readers like their plastic bags. In an Advocate poll,… Continue reading

Photo: Chilly work in Veterans’ Park

What a chilly job but somebody has to do it.… Continue reading

Boy, 15, one of three hit in Vancouver shooting

Police believe a man in his 20s was the target of the shooting

UBCO psychology professor placed under supervision with focus on “boundary issues”

Dr. Stephen Porter has stepped aside from his teaching duties

Alberta elementary school teacher arrested on child porn charges

Investigators charged a 44-year-old Pincher Creek man with possessing, accessing, and distributing child pornography

Report: Health problems could arise as Alaska warms

Climate change in Alaska has the potential to create serious physical and… Continue reading

U.S. cold snap was a freak of nature, quick analysis finds

Consider this cold comfort: A quick study of the brutal American cold… Continue reading

Canadian Kennel Club seeking to add 12 more dogs to its pack

2018’s incoming class could include the Portuguese sheepdog, Tibetan mastiff, rat terrier and Spanish water dog

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month