OTR Interviews

Did platoon members see Bergdahl's 'desertion' coming?

Medic in Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's platoon reflects on his state of mind before his capture, responds to critics of his fellow soldiers' claims about the former P.O.W.

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 11, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK HAGEL, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Like many American, Sergeant Bergdahl has rights and his conduct will be judged on the facts, not political hearsay, posturing charges or innuendo. We do owe that to any American, and especially those who are members of our military and their families.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA TANTAROS, 'ON THE RECORD' GUEST HOST: That was Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaking about the widespread criticism of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. A lot of that criticism coming from his own platoon members. Now they are the ones facing criticism.

Army Specialist Josh Cornelison was a medic in Bergdahl's platoon. He joins us now.

OK, Josh, you had a very unique role in this platoon. It was your responsibility to approach members of the platoon if you perceived there to be any psychological issues or they were to come to you. Mike Emanuel, my colleague, will be here to talk about the writings in Bergdahl's journal. They were very dark. Did you notice any signs that he could be disturbed or need help?

JOSH CORNELISON, ARMY SPECIALIST: No, nothing like that. He never approached me or came to me with any kind of concerns, whether they were mental or he didn't want to be there anymore or he didn't want to be part of the Army or he wanted to purposefully walk away. He never brought that to me at all. I never heard that one bit, not a single time.

TANTAROS: I am sure you heard he was discharged from the United States Coast Guard before he enrolled in the Army. And reports say, Josh, it was for psychological reasons. Is this typical in the military? I talked to one official who said, not typical when it's psychological reasons. How did he get from the Coast Guard to the Army? And do you think maybe that was a failure?

CORNELISON: I'm not a recruiter. I was never a recruiter. I don't know what the actual, you know, transferring from one service to the next. All I know is when he came to the unit, I was there. He was a very quiet guy. He kept to himself. He never showed any kind of glaring signs or any signs at all that he was at all psychologically different or mental off put. That never appeared for entire time I knew Bowe Bergdahl.

TANTAROS: The writings in this journal, they are pretty dark. I don't know if you have gotten a chance to see them but they are pretty dark. Have you been able to take a read to some of the things that he was writing about in that journal?

CORNELISON: I have seen -- yeah, I have seen a couple news reports over the last 24 hours that have come out about this, yeah.

TANTAROS: Any thoughts on that?

CORNELISON: You know, everybody experiences Afghanistan differently. Everybody experiences going through the withdrawal process of being away from everything that you are familiar with. Obviously, Bowe Bergdahl coped with that with some dark, heavy writing and heavy, dark thoughts. I don't spend time reading every single person's personal notes. You know, I have other stuff, other responsibilities that I have to do. So whatever he wrote he kept to himself. He was a private guy. He was not open about very much at all. He's obviously not going to share these super deep, dark secrets and writings with anybody but himself.

TANTAROS: Josh, I don't have a lot of time, but you have waited to come out and tell your story on this. How does it make you feel when people are questioning your patriotism? Why are you speaking out now?

CORNELISON: You know, I know what the truth is. There were six of us that have been speaking out what the truth is. Previously, I was a little bit -- not scared but hesitant about what any repercussions might have been. But it's been five years now of the American public being given sketchy details or not the full story. Now that Bergdahl is safe, it's time to tell the American people what the truth is. The truth is that Bowe Bergdahl purposely walked away from his post. That's what the facts are. And that's what the truth is. He is a deserter from the United States Army.

TANTAROS: And he owes you and your platoon and the American people some answers. Hopefully, we will get them.

Josh, thank you so much.

CORNELISON: Thank you so much.