I was working late that night, when the first reports about Bowe Bergdahl’s release in exchange for five Taliban leaders streamed on the television. Just a few blocks from me on my base in Afghanistan, Bergdahl processed through the hospital and onto the jet bound for Germany. Only those directly involved in the operation had any idea.
The military is good about keeping things quiet, especially the actions of special operations and other government agencies. Countless bureaucratic and physical barriers veil these groups from conventional forces. Warzone bases aren’t open like bases in the U.S. Most units within the perimeter of my base in Afghanistan work and reside within private compounds, surrounded by their own security and fences.
Some have wondered about the timing of the events here over the past two weeks: President Obama’s visit, an announcement on post-2014 U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Bergdahl, and Secretary Hagel’s visit all in just one week. For many this seems more like a well-planned campaign than mere coincidence.
Despite all this, life remains largely unchanged for those of us still here. The day-to-day mission continues. Coalition forces still patrol, convoy, fly, bomb, support, analyze, train, advise, shoot, heal, and kill. The fighting endures. People still die. In the past few days, we’ve honored several fallen service members as their friends transferred them to airplanes to take them home. Maybe we should pause a moment from the Bergdahl debate to honor them: U.S. Army Pfc. Jacob H. Wykstra, 21, of Thornton, Colorado, U.S. Army Capt. Jason B. Jones, 29, of Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania, and U.S. Army Pfc. Matthew H. Walker, 20 of Hillsboro, Missouri. I haven’t seen any of these names appear on the news network crawlers.
News reports after Secretary Hagel’s visit here noted the military crowd was silentafter he mentioned Bergdahl. The account said, “It was unclear whether the absence of cheers and applause came from a reluctance to display emotion in front of the Pentagon chief or from any doubts among the troops about Bergdahl.” I was there with a couple hundred other service members. I’m not sure the silence was symbolic of anything.
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