Pacific Alumnus Injured in Search for Bowe Bergdahl Says He's Forgiven Soldier
Bowe Bergdahl — the controversial Army sergeant who was imprisoned and tortured by the Taliban for five years after abandoning his post in Afghanistan — has his share of detractors. Michael P. Duncan PA ’16, an Army veteran who was seriously injured in the search for Bergdahl, is no longer one of them.
Duncan, who graduated from Pacific University's physician assistant program after serving in Afghanistan, recently told a reporter for the Corvallis Gazette-Times that he was once angry with Bergdahl for “his stupid mistake,” but now forgives him. Duncan was awarded a Purple Heart (his second) for the injuries he sustained in the search for Bergdahl.
“I forgive him now,” Duncan told reporter Lillian Schrock of the Corvallis Gazette-Times. Her profile of Duncan was picked up by media outlets around the country, including the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.
“I’m sure he paid a significant price for his mistake,” Duncan is quoted as saying. “And that’s why I don’t hold it against him.”
In November 2017, a military judge sentenced Bergdahl to be dishonorably discharged and to a demotion in rank. He had pled guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy — a charge levied against him for endangering his comrades by leaving his outpost in 2009.
His disappearance set off a military manhunt that resulted in at least three serious injuries and possibly some deaths. In 2014, President Obama secured Bergdahl’s release through a controversial prisoner swap.
Duncan, who grew up an Army brat, was at the end of a nine-month tour in Afghanistan and getting ready to return to the United States when his Special Forces team was sent to a remote town to gather intelligence on Bergdahl’s whereabouts.
During the mission, the team was ambushed by Taliban fighters. According to the Gazette-Times story, Duncan took two bullets to his leg and one to his hip. The latter shattered his communications radio and sprayed battery acid across his stomach.
He was medevacked to a hospital in Afghanistan, where he underwent surgery. After returning to the United States, Duncan underwent physical therapy for about a year.
Bergdahl has said he made a “horrible mistake” by abandoning his combat post and apologized to military personnel who were wounded while searching for him. He has also said he walked off his post to bring attention to problems in his chain of command.
Duncan, now a physician assistant in Newport, Ore., attributes Bergdahl’s mistake to his youth. Bergdahl was 23 years old when he deserted his post. By the time his court martial ended, he was 31 years old.
“We all make mistakes in life when we’re young,” Duncan told the Corvallis Gazette-Times. “We think we’re going to be invincible and we get some stupid ideas sometimes.”