What Every American Mother Is Thinking…


Bowe Bergdahl 

When I started following the Bowe Bergdahl story last fall, I had no idea he would become such a polarizing figure. At the time, I thought it would be a great story for my blog, a mother and son separated by war. Although I did contact the Bergdahls to see if they would be willing to be interviewed, I didn’t hear back. Now I wish I had.

If you strip away the politics, the way the release was handled and the accusations of desertion, it comes down to one thing – what would you trade for the freedom of your child?

I have asked myself that question many times over the last few days, and I know every mother in America is asking themselves the same thing. Would I set free 5 terrorists who are considered a high risk, likely to pose a threat to American interests and are guilty of mass murder and torture to secure the release of my child?

At what point does the greater good become more important than the life of my child? Tweet: At what point does the greater good become more important than the life of my child? http://ctt.ec/fDfc3+ via @TheMissingNiche

For some it’s an easy answer, for others, it’s not.

I posed the question to a number of military and non-military families, under the promise of anonymity. I asked couples, without divulging their answers to their spouses, and received different answers from some couples. It was an interesting, and difficult discussion.

Here are a few samples of what they had to say:

“….the good of mankind trumps being a parent. Because now it’s more unsafe for our people everywhere.”

“…you have me stuck between my role as a father and that of a soldier. As a father I would do whatever was needed to get my son, but on the other hand is one life worth possibly thousands? And that’s what makes it hard as a father. Now, as a soldier, we have been trained and taught that the US does not negotiate with terrorists. So the fact that we accepted their terms kinda pisses me off. But I can understand why they did it. I would take into fact who the 5 terrorists were and what thy did. If they were basic IED makers I could see doing the trade, but if they were as member of the group that planned 9-11, then no I wouldn’t do the trade. So in the long run I can not give a straight answer, the situation would dictate my decision.”

“…A soldier who honorably takes the oath understands that he may die in captivity…”Tweet:

A father:
Yes, I would trade for my son. No question.”
A mother, married to the above father:
“…please don’t misunderstood me, I love American soldiers but if it were my son, I would truly look at the greater risk and I know he would expect no less. The fact that I know I wouldn’t trade for his release saddens me greatly and makes me wonder if I am a bad parent.”
While it is obvious that the question is heart wrenching and complex, it is equally obvious that this is not a discussion families have. Why would they? We expect that we send our soldiers into battle and they may die or be captured. We do not expect that we will be faced with this choice. We have become a society whose slogan has been “We do not negotiate with terrorists.”
Now that this is seemingly an option, ask your spouse what they would do – if you want to hear the answer. With regard to the couple above, they have no idea how far apart they are on this topic. A mother is willing to risk her child for the sake or others while a father unhesitatingly said he would make the trade.
The answer to this question is more polarizing than Bowe Bergdahl.
What kind of person wouldn’t free their child?
What kind of person frees their child and risks the lives of many others?
It is complicated.
If you free your child –
  • you are happy that you have your child back
  • you may assume that you will not personally suffer if strangers die -as long as it’s not your child, you think you can live with it.
  • how do you feel in a year if the released prisoners perpetrate a heinous crime that involves Americans?
  • how do you feel in 10 years if they don’t?
  • how do you feel when more Americans are kidnapped and tortured to secure the release of other prisoners because you set the precedent?
  • are you willing to wait for the other shoe to drop?
  • what would your child have asked you to do?

If you don’t free your child –

  • your child will continue to suffer and/or die
  • what kind of parent does that make you?
  • are you being a martyr or do you really care about the greater good?
  • how will you feel when you bury your child knowing you could have saved them?
  • how will you feel if someone else comes along and makes the same trade? Did they just make your child’s death irrelevant?
  • what if those prisoners are freed in 3 years? 5? 10? Was it all in vain?
  • what would your child have asked you to do?
It’s a lose-lose situation. There is no easy, judgement-free choice. The answer lies in your heart and what you believe.
When you are forced to choose, you will see the child in the above picture. You will see you baby boy/girl. You will not see the man/woman they have become. You will see the love of your life. That’s what makes it so hard.
Some of you will believe that the greater good is far more important than what your family is suffering, after all, that is what being an American soldier is about. Others will want their family back together and leave no man behind, that is also what being an American soldier is about. Many of you will want your child back but know they would not forgive you for making the trade so you do what they expect, not what you want.
Being an American Soldier is the most admirable profession I know of, it is also the most complicated and emotional. You have chosen to put yourself at risk for past, present and future generations. Make your wishes clear to your parents and spouses now.
No matter what you do, you heart will break. Your soul will fade and you will have made an impossible choice. The same will happen to those you leave behind.
The American Soldier is loved more than you can imagine by millions of people, hold that in your heart.
It’s not for me to judge the choice Janie Bergdahl made. What I truly hope is that she made it as a mother, not as a political pawn.




  1. says

    Those who were held prisoners with no charges and the war is over in exchange for the life1 American soldier who people once believed before President Obama should not be left behind – I would negotiate the release – point blank period!


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