SALT LAKE CITY — Amid allegations of desertion, there's word that a Utah soldier may have been killed while searching for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl five years ago.
Bergdahl was freed by the Taliban Saturday in exchange for the release of five Afghan detainees from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His release sparked praise at first, and now criticism and questions.
The Pentagon found in 2010 that the Idaho soldier had walked away from his unit in Afghanistan, and former defense officials say there was an initial flurry of searching. But after that, the military decided not to go to extraordinary efforts to rescue Bergdahl.
“He’s at best a deserter, and at worst a traitor,” said Sgt. Josh Kroder, who served with Bergdahl in Afghanistan. “He pretty much walked away voluntarily and, in turn, the actions that may have killed (U.S. soldiers),” Kroder said.
Staff Sgt. Kurt Curtiss of Murray was part of the 4th Brigade Combat Team with Bergdahl. Curtiss joined the Army one day after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He served two tours in Iraq, then transferred to Fort Richardson, Alaska, where he became part of the combat team with Bergdahl.
“He cared more about other people than himself,” Curtiss’ widow, Elizabeth, told KSL News in 2012.
“If he knew you, even if he didn’t know you very well, he had your back,” she said, “and that’s the way he took care of his troops.”
Curtiss died Aug. 26, 2009. The Army said he was shot and killed as he helped evacuate a hospital.
KSL was unable to contact Curtiss’ family Monday; friends said his mother moved out of state. But we did talk to a woman who said she grew up with Curtiss. She did not want to be identified but said she felt angry to learn that it now appears Curtiss may have died while searching for Bergdahl.
Still, the woman said she also feels sympathy for the POWs family. It's confusing and frustrating news that stirs up a lot of painful feelings, she said.
Even with this new information, we still don't know all of the details of Bergdahl's disappearance and recovery, and the actual cost in American lives. Regardless of Bergdahl's actions, the Pentagon says it had an obligation to bring him home.
“If you’re taken captive, we’re going to do all we can to get you back,” said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby. “It doesn't matter the circumstances in which you were taken captive. It doesn't matter whether it was due to your own negligence or enemy action.”
Contributing: Jordan Ormond