Joining the Army wasn't Bowe Bergdahl's first military experience: He was in the Coast Guard for 26 days. Due to his departure before 180 days of service, he was given an "uncharacterized discharge" in 2006, friends tell the Washington Post; military records confirm the story. He left due to psychological issues; friends were reportedly concerned about him at the time. How he was able to join the Army in 2008 is unclear, the Post notes. A discharge related to psychological health would generally prevent future recruitment.
Involved in two wars at the time, however, the Army was providing waivers to one out of five recruits, according to 2008 data; these waivers allowed people with health issues and criminal records to join. One friend tells the Post that Bergdahl "told me he faked" his psychological problems after leaving the Coast Guard. "He believed he was in control, but I didn’t," says another. The paper has also obtained a wealth of Bergdahl's writings from the period before his capture, and they paint a portrait of a troubled young man. Among the writings:
- "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," he wrote, later adding: "I will not lose this mind, this world I have deep inside. I will not lose this passion of beauty."
- He made lists, including one of "Movies 4 My Insanity" (Mary Poppins and The Silence of the Lambs were among them). He also made plans: "One day, if I make it out of this, I will go around the world. I will not use airplanes, but only trains, boats, vehicles, and ... (if I still have them) my feet."
- Before joining the Army, he often told friends about planned adventures at home and abroad, but after disappearing from Ketchum, Idaho, for a short while, he would return. Given his personality, says a friend, “He is the perfect example of a person who should not have gone" into the military.
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