When Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl decided to walk away from his Afghanistan post back in 2009, his decision affected far more lives than just his own.
And as an Army judge decides his punishment for pleading guilty to desertion, the Wednesday testimony of a former Navy SEAL whose military dog was killed on the mission to find Bergdahl will be impossible to ignore.
The SEAL, Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch, who himself suffered an injury that ended his military career on the mission, limped as he entered the courtroom on Wednesday with his service dog, Mina.
Ret. Navy SEAL James Hatch was injured in search for Bergdahl. He testified: "I screamed a lot. It hurt really bad. I thought I was dead" pic.twitter.com/36jS69nytL
— Morgan Norwood (@Morganorwood) October 25, 2017
Daily Mail described his demeanor as “largely stoic” and noted that he “spoke in measured tones except for several times when he talked about the slain military dog,” which had helped protect he and his team on several occasions.
“His name was Remco,” an emotional Hatch said.
The prosecutor, Army Major Justin Oshana, told Hatch to “take your time,” at which point the former SEAL described when his team’s helicopters endured enemy fire after landing in a Pakistani border area where they thought Bergdahl might have been.
After Remco found two enemy fighters while leading the team through a field, the fighters shot back, killing the dog and hitting Hatch in the leg.
“I screamed a lot. It hurt really bad … I thought I was dead,” Hatch told the court.
In fact, if a fellow soldier hadn’t quickly applied a tourniquet, he believes he would be. Since then, the former Navy SEAL has had 18 surgeries since that attack and now runs a nonprofit organization that supports and cares for military and law enforcement service animals.
The judge, Army Colonel Jeffery Nance, is still considering a defense motion to dismiss the case based on the ridiculous assertion that President Trump’s comments on the case prevent a fair sentencing hearing. Nance has already ruled that the injuries wouldn’t have occurred had Bergdahl not left his post.
According to Daily Mail, “Nance said Monday that he would be fair and hasn’t been influenced by Mr. Trump, but that he does have concerns that the president’s comments are affecting public perceptions.”
The judge will have “wide leeway” to decide Bergdahl’s sentence when testimony ends in several days.
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