Opinions are wildly mixed on former Taliban captive Bowe Bergdahl.
Traviz Mertz, a soldier from Whitehall Township, Lehigh County, said he knows what camp he's in after spending time looking for the Army sergeant in Afghanistan.
Mertz served in the same infantry as Bergdahl, but in a different platoon. Mertz said the now-free Army sergeant is anything but a hero.
"Countless missions, air assault missions, going in at night. We would get intelligence he would be somewhere at the location and we would go," Mertz stated.
It was on one of those missions, searching for Bergdahl in the mountains of Afghanistan, that Mertz said his squad leader was killed.
"I will never forget it. On the radio it came over KIA. Still haunts me to this day," he said.
It's just one reason Mertz said Bergdahl, who was just released by the Taliban after five years in captivity, is anything but a hero and thinks he should be court-martialed and serve prison time.
"I believe it's not punishment enough. We all don't know what he did," Mertz said.
As of now, the government isn't giving details, but Mertz said he went on hundreds of missions trying to find Bergdahl-- missions he said cost six American soldiers their lives.
Despite some, including President Barack Obama, calling Bergdahl a hero, Mertz said he believes those who served alongside Bergdahl who say he left his post and is a deserter.
Mertz said he and his fellow soldiers don't believe Bergdahl could have been snatched or kidnapped.
"I've been to their base multiple times and I did see their layout. There is no way at night during guard duty a Taliban or enemy could sneak in and capture a soldier," Mertz said. "That doesn't happen."
He also thinks, by handing over five high-ranking members of the Taliban, the United States paid too steep a price for his return.
It's not just Mertz and many of the men he served with who are angry.
A Facebook page called "Bowe Bergdahl is not a hero" has more than 8,000 likes. His hometown of Hailey, Idaho, recently canceled a homecoming celebration because of the controversy.
When asked what he would say to Bergdahl today, Mertz replied: "I would just ask him why, and does he realize what his actions have done, as per American lives that were lost."
Mertz did say he does empathize with Bergdahl's family, and he is glad the American is coming home.
Allentown, PA 18102
- Lehigh Valley 69 News