By Rebecca Shabad - 06/02/14 07:33 AM EDT
Soldiers who served with Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan are claiming he is a deserter who walked off his base in June 2009, but the Pentagon says it still doesn’t know exactly what happened.
“We still don’t have a complete picture of what caused him to leave his base that night,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said on CNN’s “New Day” Monday.
Nathan Bradley Bethea wrote in The Daily Beast on Monday that they both served in the same battalion.
The night before he disappeared on June 30, Bethea said Bergdahl was on guard duty at a small outpost. The next morning, he failed to show up for morning roll call. Soldiers discovered his body armor, rifle, helmet and web gear in a neat stack, with his compass left behind, Bethea wrote.
“The truth is: Bergdahl was a deserter, and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down,” he said.
Soldiers were then forced to remain silent about Bergdahl’s disappearance and the search for him, Bethea added, which led to some soldiers losing their lives.
"I was pissed off then and I am even more so now with everything going on," Former Sgt. Matt Vierkant, a member of Bergdahl's platoon, told CNN. “"Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him."
His former squad leader, Greg Leatherman, told CNN “I believe that an investigation should take place as soon as healthcare professionals deem him fit to endure one."
At least six U.S. soldiers died hunting for Bergdahl, CNN reports.
Many of his fellow troops also told CNN that they had to sign nondisclosure agreements to never share information about his disappearance and the hunt for him.
On Sunday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel deflected questions about the nature of his 2009 disappearance and said his health is the top priority.
The late Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings had obtained emails in 2012 that indicated Bergdahl told fellow soldiers before he was gone that he no longer supported the U.S. effort in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesman Kirby said Monday that whether he deserted or not, being held by the Taliban for five years is a “pretty high price to pay after walking off a base.”