Serial: Podcast Responses

Serial 2: Episode 11

In the final episode of Serial 2 titled Present for Duty, Sarah Koenig debriefs Bowe Bergdahl’s entire case and the circumstances surrounding it in one lasting grand swept. We return to the beginning, the very beginning, when Bowe was in the Coastal Guard. Versus the first episode, DUSTWUN, when we were first being introduced to Bowe, not as an ill placed soldier surviving  five years of Taliban capture, but as a trader. We open not from Bowe’s point of view, but from the perspective of those most indirectly affected by Bowe’s capture – the soldier forced to lead search parties through hostile territories in search of him.

It was debated, in the podcast and most likely in Bowe’s hearing, that the search for Bowe had resulted in the death of six soldiers. As explained by Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, “So if somebody was on a mission to go find an American, you know, there’s…you know, did the guy…did a soldier walk down a road and an IED blew up, and if this soldier was walking down that road in an area where he would not have been had it not been for the search for Bergdahl—and in fact, his mission, their tactical mission, was to, you know, conduct a patrol and try to find intelligence or try to find any indications of where this soldier might be—and in fact was blown up by that IED or others wounded, that’s a no-brainer to me.” But his explanation was lagging in some aspects, such as the six deaths occurring outside of the official searches for Bowe. According to soldiers conducting these missions, and an interview between Jon Thurman and Sarah Koenig, the purpose of these unofficial missions weren’t detailed to them. In response to being asked what was the mission, Jon responded, “That was definitely way above my pay grade. We were gonna be going into Palaw, and we were gonna be looking around and going house to house. And we had quite a few attachments that I’d never seen before. We had a female engagement team. And we also had a combat camera team that was with us. So I don’t actually know.” And as Sarah attempting to find more about these missions, there wasn’t much there. Most information from then had been redacted or wasn’t filed at all. But other than a paper trail, the soldiers had plenty to say. In reference to Bowe’s return, “We’re not gonna stand by and let them say he is a hero. Your son and the other guys were a hero, and we’re not gonna stand for this.” (Sondra Andrews) Bowe was very much to blame.

Through the eleven episodes of Serial season two, we as an audience plus the host, Sarah Koenig, have tried to figure out if Bowe was to blame. And in truth, yes, he was. Were the circumstances surrounding Bowe’s situation complicated, yes. Bowe, based off of past psychological reports conducted by army psychologist, Bowe should have never been allowed to enlist. But regardless of whether or not he was supposed to be in the army or his mental state, Bowe walked off of the army base of his own volition.