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Local News

June 5, 2014

Local veterans are mixed on POW deal

Some local veterans interviewed Wednesday said they disapproved of the deal that led to the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Bergdahl was freed last weekend from five years captivity by the Taliban in a prisoner exchange for five detainees at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, who retired from the Army in 2012, said “the issue is the judgement on this specific deal, which is not in our best interests.”

Exchanging five fairly high-ranking battlefield commanders for one American serviceman is a very bad deal, Gibson said, one that he would have opposed if he were president.

But prisoner exchanges are something this country has done for many years so no precedent was set, Gibson said.

Delhi American Legion Post Commander Ed McGrath, a Vietnam-era veteran, said the official position of the national organization is that any time one of our soldiers come home is a good thing. If there are other issues, they should be investigated and dealt with appropriately.

But McGrath said something seems wrong to him about releasing five top operatives for Bergdahl, and the decision seems very political.

McGrath said he thinks the swap will “come back to haunt” President Barack Obama, and has the potential to imperil other military personnel.

John “Jack” Thomas, of Masonville, who served in the Army during the Korean War said when he first heard about the case, it appeared Bergdahl was a deserter and nothing he has heard since has changed his mind. If people died searching for him over the years, Thomas said, “that would be terrible.”

Bergdahl’s release involved negotiating with terrorists, Thomas said. His concern is that the five Taliban commanders will be released from confinement and “we will pay for it. It’s a slippery slope we are on,” that has made military members less safe, he said.

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