Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Apologizes For Deserting His Unit

Oct 30, 2017
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl took the stand at his sentencing today. Bergdahl has pleaded guilty to walking away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009. He spent five years as a prisoner of the Taliban. NPR's Frank Morris is covering Bergdahl's court martial at Fort Bragg, N.C. What did Bergdahl say when he took the stand?

FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: Well, first he just launched into this abject painful-sounding apology. He said, quote, "it was never my intention for anyone to be hurt, and I never expected that to happen." He said, I was trying to help, and knowing that I did not breaks my heart. And he broke into tears at that point. It was painful to watch him.

SHAPIRO: Sounds like a really emotional scene in that courtroom. I know that before Bergdahl spoke, the prosecution called its last witness. Tell us about that witness.

MORRIS: Well, that was Shannon Allen. That was also gut-wrenching testimony. Shannon Allen is the wife of Sergeant Mark Allen - Staff Sergeant Mark Allen from the Georgia National Guard. Sergeant Allen was shot in the head near the temple in an attempt to rescue Bowe Bergdahl in July of 2009. He was grievously injured. He's had to have two operations to remove parts of his brain. He arrived in the United States in a vegetative state.

Now he's in a sort of a semi-conscious state where he can perceive things. He can perceive pain apparently all the time, but he has a really hard time of making sense out of anything. He may or may not be able to see. It's unclear. Shannon Allen said it's taken away all of the interaction. He lost me as a wife. And she said she's just a caregiver now. They showed a video with her in their house that they've refitted to be kind of a makeshift hospital with a lift and a - you know, a system of tracks on the ceiling that allow them to move Sergeant Allen around.

SHAPIRO: And I understand that Bowe Bergdahl spoke specifically about Sergeant Allen as well.

MORRIS: He apologized to all the people who were out looking for him and to their families. You know, interestingly, too, Bergdahl spent most of his time describing the horrible conditions that he was under for five years as a captive, and he kind of deteriorated through this process. He held up chains and shackles that were used to to keep him in custody and talked about the cage he was locked up in, which was just made of iron bars kind of crisscrossed, no way to get comfortable. You just had to get exhausted and then fall asleep. He said that, there were moments when I lost all understanding of what I was because of the deprivation and the pain.

SHAPIRO: Just briefly, I know that Bergdahl's attorneys asked the judge to dismiss the charges because of comments that President Trump had made. What did the judge conclude there?

MORRIS: That President Trump's comments were inappropriate but that they did not rise to the level of unlawful command influence, which is the standard.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Frank Morris speaking with us from Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Thanks a lot, Frank.

MORRIS: Thanks a lot, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.