WASHINGTON, D.C. —
"At the time ... it wasn't really alarming" to hear Bergdahl ask about those things, Buetow said. "Yes, it was a kind of off-the-wall question," but the notion of a fellow soldier running off during the night seemed so far-fetched as to not be possible, he said.
Buetow said he feels strongly that Bergdahl should face trial for desertion, but he said it is less clear that he should be blamed for the deaths of all soldiers killed during months of trying to find him. Beutow said he knows of at least one death on an intelligence-directed infantry patrol to a village in search of Bergdahl. More broadly, the mission of his entire unit changed after Bergdahl's disappearance because it began to incorporate efforts to pursue clues to his whereabouts.
"Those soldiers who died on those missions, they would not have been where they were ... if Bergdahl had never walked away," he said. "At the same time I do believe it is somewhat unfair for people to say, 'It is Bergdahl's fault that these people are dead.' I think that's a little harsh."
Matt Vierkant, 27, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was a team leader of another squad in Bergdahl's platoon.
He's now out of the military and studying mechanical engineering.
Soldiers from his unit and other units were wounded or killed on missions to chase down leads related to Bergdahl, he said.
Asked about the statement Sunday by National Security Adviser Susan Rice that Bergdahl served "with honor and distinction," he said: "That statement couldn't be further from the truth. I don't know if she was misinformed or doesn't know about the investigations and everything else, or what."