Bowe Bergdahl has apologised to the troops who were injured searching for him after he abandoned his Afghanistan outpost in 2009.
The 31-year-old is facing a lifelong prison sentence and a dishonourable discharge from the US army after pleading guilty earlier this month to desertion and misbehaviour before the enemy.
He was captured by the Taliban after leaving his outpost in Afghanistan’s Paktika province in June 2009 and spent the next five years in captivity before being released in a prisoner swap in 2014.
Bergdahl was the first witness in a defence presentation to the judge who will eventually sentence him.
He told the military court at Fort Bragg, North Carolina: “I would like everyone who searched for me to know it was never my intention for anyone to be hurt, and I never expected that to happen.
“My words alone can’t take away their pain.”
His words follow testimony from the colleagues who were seriously injured during the search effort for him.
One of those who spoke was Shannon Allen, wife of Master Sergeant Mark Allen, who suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was shot in the head after his unit was ambushed by insurgents.
The unit had been on a mission to gather information they hoped would help find Bergdahl in two villages in July 2009.
Mr Allen was so badly injured that he cannot speak. He spent more than two years being treated in military hospitals, he uses a wheelchair and his wife said she has to stay with him constantly due to seizures.
Mrs Allen, who has two children with her husband, said: “Instead of being his wife, I’m his caregiver.”
During Bergdahl’s two-hour speech, he also talked about the conditions he endured in captivity and how the experience affects him now.
He said: “The worst was the constant, just the constant deterioration of everything.
“The constant pain from my body falling apart, the constant screams from my mind.
“It was the years of waiting to see whether or not the next time someone opens the door if that would be the person coming to execute you.”
Bergdahl, who was kept in a cage for most of his five years in captivity, said he had been beaten with copper wire and suffered from numerous gastrointestinal problems due to the terrible conditions he lived in.
He said he still has nightmares and struggles to sleep for more than five hours at a time. He sleeps with a flashlight nearby and checks at least three times a night to make sure his door is secure.
During last year’s presidential campaign, Donald Trump described Bergdahl as a “no-good traitor” who should be executed.
In a setback for the defence on Monday, the presiding military judge said he believed the President’s remarks had not damaged Bergdahl’s chances of a fair sentence.
Source: Sky News World
Full Story: Army deserter Bergdahl apologises to soldiers