The family of a soldier killed in the ambush that also claimed the life of Genoa native and Army Pfc. Matthew Martinek says the group was searching for missing Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl at the time.
Martinek, 20, was one of two soldiers who eventually died after an attack in Afghanistan’s Paktika province on Sept. 4, 2009. Taliban forces ambushed their vehicle with an improvised explosive device, then attacked with a rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire, the U.S. Department of Defense said.
Martinek, who grew up in Genoa and moved to Bartlett after his freshman year at Genoa-Kingston High School, died the week after the attack at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. He had moved back to DeKalb after graduating high school and briefly attended Northern Illinois University before enlisting.
Also killed as a result of the attack was 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews, 34, of Dallas, whose family has been speaking out this week. They say they have been told by other military members that when Martinek and Andrews were killed, they were searching for Bergdahl.
In an interview with The Military Times, Andrews’ mother, Sondra Andrews, said she was told at the time that her son and Martinek were killed while searching for a top Taliban fighter.
“By omission, we assumed they were just pursuing the Taliban,” Andrews told the Military Times. “Then the guys [Andrews and Martinek served with] started contacting me. They said, ‘No, ma’am, we were looking for [Bergdahl].’”
Martinek and Andrews were deployed with 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. Then-Pfc. Bergdahl was, too, before he walked away from his unit in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan and into 5 years of captivity by the Taliban in June 2009.
Former members of Bergdahl’s platoon spoke to the AP on Tuesday about his disappearance, his freedom and how he should be treated now that he’s out. The interviews were facilitated by a public relations firm, Capitol Media Partners, co-owned by Republican strategist Richard Grenell. All three men said Bergdahl should be investigated for desertion.
Joshua Cornelison, 25, who was a medic in Bergdahl’s platoon said he believes Bergdahl should be held accountable for walking away.
“After he actually left, the following morning we realized we have Bergdahl’s weapon, we have Bergdahl’s body armor, we have Bergdahl’s sensitive equipment, [but] we don’t have Bowe Bergdahl,” Cornelison said from Sacramento, California. At that point, Cornelison said, it occurred to him that Bergdahl was “that one guy that wanted to disappear, and now he’s gotten his wish.”
Evan Buetow, who was a sergeant in Bergdahl’s platoon, said from Maple Valley, Washington, that Bergdahl should face trial for desertion, but he also said it was less clear that he should be blamed for the deaths of all soldiers killed during months of trying to find him. Buetow said he knew of at least one death on an intelligence-directed infantry patrol to a village in search of Bergdahl.
“Those soldiers who died on those missions, they would not have been where they were ... if Bergdahl had never walked away,” he said. “At the same time, I do believe it is somewhat unfair for people to say, ‘It is Bergdahl’s fault that these people are dead.’ I think that’s a little harsh.”