To the editor of THE EAGLE:

With the return of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from captivity in Afghanistan we've heard an outcry from conservatives over the exchange that led to his release, and worse, denouncing his character and patriotism. There has been a lot of reporting about his sentiments, his actions, and the consequences of those actions, some accurate and some untrue. I would argue that all of it is irrelevant.

We've heard commentary that begins with "If I was over there ... ", or "If I had a son over there ...". "If" is the important word here. We learned after Vietnam that those who do not serve and fight have little right to judge the actions of those who do. Vietnam veterans came home to an ungrateful nation that treated them with indifference, or worse, with outright scorn.

As a nation, we corrected that mistake and finally gave all Vietnam veterans the respect they deserve for their service. Many soldiers were ashamed of what they saw in that war. Many denounced the war. Many came home to the brig. Many suffered, and still suffer, from the trauma of combat. They are still alive. Why don't they bring them on the air and call them "traitor" to their faces?

We should understand that Sergeant Bergdahl gave more for his country in the "War on Terror" than 99 percent of Americans. He volunteered and served. For that alone, every one of our soldiers deserves the assurance that they will not be left behind, no matter the circumstances.

Maybe Sgt. Bergdahl will end up in the brig, and maybe he won't. In either case, those of us who watched this war on TV should refrain from making judgments on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's character. Let's just be grateful that we got him home, and thank him for his service.

DAVID ELIA

Cummington