(CNSNews.com) - More than three years after President Obama appeared in the White House Rose Garden to announce that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl would be coming home, Bergdahl on Monday pleaded guilty to charges of deserting his post and misbehavior before the enemy.
Bergdahl spent five years as a captive of the Taliban, who found him when he walked away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009.
"I understand that leaving was against the law," Bergdahl reportedly told a military judge on Monday. "At the time, I had no intention of causing search and recovery operations," he said.
In his 2014 announcement, President Obama said his administration had “worked for several years” to win Bergdahl’s freedom, eventually agreeing to release five Taliban terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl.
Obama told Bergdahl’s parents Bob and Jani, “today families across America share in the joy that I know you feel. As a parent, I can't imagine the hardship that you guys have gone through. As President, I know that I speak for all Americans when I say we cannot wait for the moment when you are reunited and your son, Bowe, is back in your arms.”
Obama said Bowe was “never forgotten” during his five years in captivity:
“He wasn’t forgotten by his community in Idaho, or the military, which rallied to support the Bergdahls through thick and thin. And he wasn’t forgotten by his country, because the United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind.
“As Commander-in-Chief, I am proud of the servicemembers who recovered Sergeant Bergdahl and brought him safely out of harm’s way. As usual, they performed with extraordinary courage and professionalism, and they have made their nation proud,” Obama said at the time.
Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers, however, reacted furiously to Obama’s announcement, saying that Bowe deserted his post and put other troops’ lives in jeopardy.
On “Fox & Friends” Monday morning, retired Green Beret Lt.-Col. Michael Waltz, who led the Special Forces search for Bergdahl, said Bowe is a deserter, and “there is zero doubt in my mind, soldiers were injured, soldiers were killed,” while searching for him.
Waltz also objected to the diversion of resources, such as Medivac helicopters and drones, that were used during the search for Bergdahl.
Waltz called Monday’s plea bargain “justice eight years in the making,” and he said he hopes Bergdahl, when he is sentenced in a few weeks, gets a dishonorable discharge, is reduced to private, and deprived of all back pay.
Waltz also said he hopes and expects that Bergdahl will get life in prison. “That’s justice in my mind.”
Speaking in the Rose Garden three years ago, President Obama referred to the “ironclad commitment to bring our prisoners of war home.”
“That’s who we are as Americans. It's a profound obligation within our military, and today, at least in this instance, it's a promise we've been able to keep.”
Susan Rice: Bergdahl Was 'Captured on the Battlefield' (June 2, 2014)
Obama Compares His Actions on Bergdahl to Washington, Lincoln, FDR (June 3, 2014)
Pentagon Spokesman: 'Doesn't Matter' How Bergdahl Ended Up With Taliban (June 3, 2014)
WH 'Very, Very Limited' in What It Can Say About Bergdahl: 'There's a Lot of Sensitivity' (December 15, 2015)