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Local veteran in same unit as Bowe Bergdahl: 'He betrayed his country'

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl leaves the Fort Bragg courtroom facility as the judge deliberates during a sentencing hearing at Fort Bragg, N.C., Friday, Nov. 3, 2017. The judge ruled that Bergdahl to get dishonorable discharge, lose rank, forfeit pay in addition to getting no prison time. Bergdahl, walked off his base in Afghanistan in 2009 and was held by the Taliban for five years, pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Bowe Bergdahl will not be going to prison for leaving his post in Afghanistan and endangering his comrades.

He pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

The judge reduced his rank to private and is fining him $1,000 a month from his salary for 10 months.

"How is this judge going to sleep at night? How is he going to put his uniform on?" said Chad Garcia, a local man and retired sergeant. "Is this the cost of treason?"

Bergdahl was also dishonorably discharged from the Army.

"He should request the death penalty," Garcia said. "That's what I would do, but then again I would never walk off my post."

Garcia was in the same unit as Bergdahl, the 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Airborne.

Although he never actually met Bergdahl, he was sent to Afghanistan at the time Bergdahl was missing.

"The main story that I heard of was this guy just walked off his post, left a note, left his weapon and just took off," he said. "I showed up, asking everybody, 'Hey, what about the guy that was captured,' and the looks I got were priceless, because he wasn't captured. He left his post."

When Garcia was sent to Afghanistan, his primary mission was not to find Bergdahl, but he said they still looked for him.

"No matter how we felt about him, we weren't going to leave him there," he said. "I would say maybe a quarter of missions we would sit down with these local leaders. We'd get intel that they just brought the 'white rabbit' through, because that's what they referred to him in Afghanistan. He was the white rabbit, and that became a joke to us, 'Oh, the white rabbit hopped through. We just missed him by a day.' It was like we were that close."

Garcia's said one of his close friends and local veteran, Chris Quinones, was also in the unit and was deployed with Bergdahl.

Garcia said anger doesn't begin to describe how they feel about the sentence. He said it is a deep hurt.

"This one hurts," Garcia said. "He broke the first order that we learn in basic training, to guard everything within the limits of your post and do not leave your post until properly relieved. That's your main and only duty."

"I am willing to bet my VA disability and military retirement, all of it, 100 percent, that every single soldier and veteran out there agrees with me," Garcia said.

After the ruling, Garcia said, "I'd imagine they have some protective custody on this guy, because he's a dead man walking in a lot of people's eyes."

"Did he have it easy? Probably not," Garcia said. "This guy gets welcomed home as a hero, and he's not. This guy betrayed his country. He left in a time of war."

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