Among military community members, I can’t think of another name that causes such a passionate discussion as the name Bowe Bergdahl.
Army Sgt. Robert “Bowe” Bergdahl disappeared from his base in Afghanistan in June 2009. He was held in captivity by the Taliban for 5 years. He was released in May 2014 in a controversial exchange of 5 Taliban detainees.
I remember following the media coverage of Bergdahl’s release closely. I remember hearing the news reports that a POW was coming home. I remember reading that he wasn’t a POW, he was a traitor — a soldier who “walked off” his post in Afghanistan. Then he wasn’t facing charges… no, wait, he was facing charges. And then, frankly, I forgot about him.
Serial is a podcast that I was late to the game to start listening to. When a friend told me about it, she said “wow, Michelle, CNN did a story about it. I thought everyone knew about Serial.” With her recommendation I subscribed and started listening during my daily 3-mile walks. I was hooked.
Here’s how Serial describes itself:
Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial tells one story—a true story—over the course of a season. Each season, we follow a plot and characters wherever they take us. We won’t know what happens at the end until we get there, not long before you get there with us. Each week we bring you the next chapter in the story, so it’s important to listen to the episodes in order.
In my opinion Serial goes deeper than any other news source and is told like a documentary. But instead of showing one person’s view of a news event, this podcast shows you the story from the perspectives of many people directly and indirectly related to that story.
When the creators of Serial announced that Bergdahl and his trial would be the focus on Season 2, I honestly hesitated.
Did I want to hear what Bergdahl had to say?
I started listening for one reason: I wanted to know why and how Bergdahl left his post in Afghanistan. Mainly how. How does a soldier leave the Mest-Malak combat outpost in Paktika Province? How is that even possible?
Many of my military friends won’t even consider listening. They’ve made up their minds about Bergdahl (he’s guilty of desertion) and they don’t want to know anything else about him. Plus the search for Bergdahl after he was captured by the Taliban put a lot of soldiers’ lives in danger.
But here are 3 reasons why you may want to consider listening to Serial Season 2.
This podcast is about more than Bergdahl.
When you listen to this podcast, you do hear from Bergdahl. But you also listen to an interview with a journalist who was held by the Taliban and how he was treated. This podcast offers a complex perspective of the ongoing war in this part of the world that looks beyond the surface of terrorism. It looks at our foreign policies. It looks at the sacrifices that soldiers make to “leave no man behind.”
This podcast is produced for the 99 percent.
When you listen to this podcast you listen to a story about the Army, its operations and its purpose in Afghanistan from a civilian for a civilian audience. There are a lot of things I don’t know or understand about the Army. But when I listen to this podcast, I hear Koenig explaining what seems like such basic military information and I think “wow, the general public really doesn’t know anything about the military.”
For example, Koenig interviews soldiers who served with Bergdahl and they will explain how awful their working conditions were on deployment. I hear her prod them with questions about their food, the toilets (or lack there of) and sleeping conditions. I think “obviously they were on a deployment in Afghanistan.” But unless you have a close family member serving in the Armed Forces, you wouldn’t know those details not shown in 30-second news segments. This podcast is produced for civilians – not the military.
This podcast shows you that the Bergdahl case is complex.
Emotionally many Americans are very frustrated with Bergdahl’s actions, but as the podcast points out, the general who investigated these same actions testified that jail time for Bergdahl would be “inappropriate” and said he did not find “any evidence to corroborate the reporting that Bergdahl was … sympathetic to the Taliban.”
After listening to 4 episodes of Serial, I’m not sure how I feel about Bergahl. Wait, I take that back. I know I feel about Bergdahl as a person. But how did I feel about him and his court-martial scheduled to begin in August 2016?
I’m not sure. So until I make up my mind, I’ll just keep listening to Serial. You should too.