Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held for five years by an Islamic insurgent group in Afghanistan before the controversial barter that brought him freedom, was discharged from the Coast Guard two years before joining the Army, The Washington Post reports.
The Post said it obtained a copy of Bergdahl's records from a Bergdahl friend, Kim Harrison, who received them from the Army after Bergdahl was taken prisoner in 2009.
According to the records, Bergdahl received an "uncharacterized discharge" from the Coast Guard after 26 days of basic training in 2006. Such discharges, according to Coast Guard regulations, involve separation for those who serve less than 180 days. The Post said a Coast Guard representative provided no further information on Berghdahl's discharge.
Berghdahl, 28, was held captive by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network in Afghanistan until his release May 31. The cost was high -- five Guantamao Bay detainees were freed in the deal -- and the Obama administration has faced withering criticism on Capitol Hill. Public opposition to the exchange has less to do with Bergdahl himself and more with how Obama handled the transfer, according to a USA TODAY/Pew Research Center poll.
The Post said Harrison decided to share Bergdahl's computer files, handwrittten journal, essays and other records because "she has become concerned about the portrayal of Bergdahl as a calculating deserter, which she contends is at odds with her understanding of him as a sensitive, vulnerable young man."
"I'm worried," he wrote in his journal entry before he deployed. "The closer I get to ship day, the calmer the voices are. I'm reverting. I'm getting colder. My feelings are being flushed with the frozen logic and the training, all the unfeeling cold judgment of the darkness."
"I will not lose this mind, this world I have deep inside," he also wrote. "I will not lose this passion of beauty."
"Trying to keep my self togeather," he wrote at another point, using his often unorthodox spelling. "I'm so tired of the blackness, but what will happen to me without it. Bloody hell why do I keep thinking of this over and over."
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, testifying Wednesday on Capitol Hill, defended the deal that freed Bergdahl, saying the risks to Bergdahl were growing when officials feverishly negotiated his release in return for five detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Hagel also pointed out that Bergdahl has not been charged with any crime and the speculation and criticism of his actions are unwarranted.
"Like any American, Sgt. Bergdahl has rights, and his conduct will be judged on facts – not political hear-say, posturing, charges, or innuendo. We owe that to any American and especially those who are members of our military and their families," he said.