After five years as captive of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and after being required to defend his conduct in Afghanistan to Army investigators upon his return, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is ready to leave the military and enter civilian life.
"He is ready to move on to the next chapter of his life," Bergdahl's attorney, Eugene Fidell, told Newsradio 1200 WOAI on Wednesday. "He would like to get a college education."
Bergdahl, 28, was released by the Taliban in a controversial prisoner swap on May 31st. After that, he went through a military re-integration process at a military hospital in San Antonio, and he has been returned to active military duty in an office at Ft. Sam Houston.
Fidell says the fact that he wants to leave the Army doesn't surprise him.
"People who have had this kind of experience, in my understanding, tend not to remain in the service," Fidell said. "Senator McCain, for example, was a Naval officer, and when he came back he retired. It is time for Sgt. Bergdahl to just become plain old Bowe Bergdahl and move on with his life."
Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican Presidential nominee, was a Prisoner of War in Vietnam for five and a half years. According to his U.S. Senate biography, McCain was released by North Vietnam in 1973 and retired from the Navy in 1981.
Fidell declined to speculate on where Bergdahl will attend college or what he plans to study.
"I think he would bring an enormous amount to any institution of higher learning that would have him," he said. "Whatever he studies it will be interesting and he will throw himself into it. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds."
An Army general is currently investigating how Bergdahl came to be a prisoner of the Taliban. Some members of his former squad have suggested that he was absent without leave or even deserted his post at a forward operating base in Afghanistan. Both being absent without leave and desertion are crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
"I would certainly like for him to have veteran’s benefits, of course," Fidell said. Whether that happens will be determined by what administrative or legal punishment, if any, is leveled against Bergdahl. He can't leave the Army until the investigation is completed.
Gen. Kenneth Dahl could recommend no punishment and simply allow Bergdahl to leave the Army with an honorable discharge; he could recommend an administrative punishment, like loss of rank or a less than honorable discharge, which would affect Bergdahl’s ability to receive veteran’s benefits; and he could recommend court martial on criminal charges.
"He is in kind of a holding pattern," he said. "We have to see where this is all headed. In the meantime, he is doing what he has been ordered to do, which is to serve in a headquarters unit at Ft. Sam Houston."