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Military Mothers Whose Sons Died Await Bergdahl's Court Hearing

Army Sgt. CLayton Bowen of San Antonio died in August 2009 in Afghanistan.

The mothers of two Texas soldiers killed in Afghanistan believe Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl put their sons in danger when he left his nearby post in 2009. They say they’ve waited too long for the military hearing into Bergdahl’s actions which begins today in San Antonio. 


Tucked into the entryway of ReesaDoebbler’s San Antonio home is a shrine, of sorts, dedicated to her son, Army Staff Sgt. Clayton Bowen- a glass case filled with awards and memorabilia he collected while serving with the 82nd Airborne.

“It has his medals and beret and his rope and dog tags,” Doebbler explains as she points to the Purple Heart and bronze star medals in the case.  

Credit Shelley Kofler / Texas Public Radio
Texas Public Radio
In her home, the mother of Army Staff Sgt. Clayton Bowen displays the hat he wore in Afghanistan before he died.

On her computer Doebbler has saved recordings of her son’s performances with the 82nd's All- American Chorus.

Bowen is the soldier with the deep bass voice, singing solo on Blue Moon.

“I miss being around him because he was extremely funny,” she says. “He was always up and positive.”

Bowen was 29 years old in August 2009 when his Humvee was hit by an improvised explosive in Afghanistan and he was killed. He was in an area where soldiers were searching for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl who had vanished from a nearby outpost. The Taliban held Bergdahl captive for five years before the Obama administration negotiated his freedom by releasing five Taliban members.

Doebbler believes the prisoner swap was wrong and that Bergdahl deserted when he left his post.

“That’s not what you do when you’re in the military. And secondly, many, many lives were put in danger because of him and some killed because of him.”   

Doebbler’s son wasn’t part of the Bergdahl search party, but he was in the area where Bergdahl disappeared.  Doebbler believes that made him a target for the enemy.

“They knew that we would be looking for him and that area got a little heated.”

Doebbler says she’s not attending the military hearing, but another mother, Sondra Andrews, hopes for a front row seat. 

The mother of Second Lt. Darryn Andrews of Texas says he was searching for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl when he was killed by an enemy explosive.

She says soldiers who served with Bergdahl reported her son, Second Lt.  Darryn Andrews, was searching for Bergdahl when an improvised explosive killed him. She believes the military has concealed information.

“I think they’re trying to cover up. And they’re trying to make Mr. Obama not look so guilty for making the exchange for Bergdahl,” said Andrews.

Wednesday night, as Andrews and her husband drove from their home near Waco to San Antonio for the hearing, she said she hoped the proceeding would bring some closure.

“We hope to hear Bergdahl’s points where he can tell us why he did that (left his post).  I’d like to know whether he has any remorse for what he has caused.”

Defense lawyers have said critics wrongly blamed Bergdahl for causing six soldiers deaths by deserting and prompting the search. They say they’ve asked the Army to release documents that will debunk the accusations leveled at Bergdahl.

Reesa Doebbler believes Bergdahl deserves his day in court, but she’s already made up her mind.

“I think he’s guilty and he needs to be punished.”

Still Doebbler says she doesn’t plan to spend a lot of time following the hearing.  She tries to push the accused soldier out of her thoughts.  

She prefers instead to think about the son whose deep, booming voice still makes her smile when she listens to him croon Blue Moon.

Texas Public Radio is covering the Article 32 hearing for Bergdahl and will have reports Thursday on what lawyers for the defense and prosecution plan to argue.

Shelley Kofler is Texas Public Radio’s news director. She joined the San Antonio station in December 2014 and leads a growing staff that produces two weekly programs; a daily talk show, news features, reports and online content. Prior to TPR, Shelley served as the managing editor and news director at KERA in Dallas-Fort Worth, and the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.