EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


June 5, 2014

Local vets: Bergdahl POW swap 'off balance'

Others support Obama's effort to bring Americans home

Area veterans questioned about the release of America’s sole prisoner of war, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, wondered why the United States freed five terrorists in exchange for one American soldier.

“The trade doesn’t make sense,” said North Andover Veterans Services Officer Ed Mitchell, who served aboard submarines as a chief petty officer during the Cold War.

“I hope the government has a bigger picture behind it,” he said.

Patrick Hennessy, an Army veteran whose son, North Andover police Officer Michael Hennessy, fought in Afghanistan while serving in the Marines, said the 1-for-5 swap seems “off balance.”

Hennessy and Mitchell both said many questions need to be answered about Bergdahl’s capture. A soldier who was serving in Bergdahl’s platoon when he was captured, June 30, 2009, said the now former prisoner was a deserter.

Matt Vierkant, who was a sergeant in Bergdahl’s unit, noted several American soldiers died in an attempt to rescue him.

State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, D-Methuen, who served as an intelligence officer in the Army during the Reagan administration, said, “It is our national policy to do everything to secure the release of our POWs.”

“There is certainly precedent,” she said, for an exchange of prisoners – even with a terrorist organization. The Reagan administration, she noted, negotiated with Hezbollah for the release of captured American servicemen during the civil war in Lebanon.

President Obama, she said, “should have consulted with Congress” about the exchange. Campbell, who served in the Army for eight years, completed jump school and was discharged as a senior captain, said failing to work for the release of prisoners of war would “weaken the effectiveness of our armed forces.”

Douglas Micklon, commander of American Legion Post 63 in Salem, N.H., said he believes that what Obama did was correct.

“All those prisoners are going to be let loose by international law when we leave the country, and that’s supposed to be the end of 2014,” he said. “They all are. Everybody in GITMO (Guantanamo Bay detention camp) is going to be released.”

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