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Little-Known Desertion Case Mirrors Bergdahl Story

For years now, the story of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and his alleged desertion has captured headlines and incensed the public. However, he is not the only U.S. Army soldier to go missing in 2009 and, as Stars and Stripes pointsout in a new profile, one case in particular has significant similarities to Bergdahl's own.

The Story of 2nd Lt. Lawrence Franks

Three months before Bergdahl disappeared from his unit in Afghanistan in 2009, 2nd Lt. Lawrence Franks vanished from his base in upstate New York. Like Bergdahl, Franks would go missing for five years. He didn't turn up again until he turned himself into the Army in 2014, the same year Bergdahl was also rescued. "To turn myself in was the happiest moment in my life," Franks has since told the press. "Now I was coming home to my family and to take responsibility for what I had done."

Franks had fled his unit as it prepared for an Afghanistan deployment and ended up being accepted into the French Foreign Legion. Amazingly, Bergdahl had also wanted to join the French Foreign Legion before his Army career but was rejected. Franks was given a new name and even became the personal guard of a high-ranking French general. "He is a man I will never forget and by whom I will always stand," the general said during Frank's trial. "He is more than a born soldier; he is a born gentleman."

Perhaps most significantly, both Bergdahl and Franks suffer from mental disorders. Franks has been diagnosed with depression and suicidal ideation while some experts now believe that Bergdahl, who suffers from a personality disorder, should have never of been accepted into the Army in the first place. Both men also entertained ideas of grandeur and idealization—things that ultimately made their time in the Army dispiriting. "The more idealized your view of an institution, the more prone you are to disappointment in leadership and in yourself," Georgetown University professor Nancy Sherman told Stripes. "There’s severe moral disappointment. The illusions burst."

Critical Differences

After turning himself in, Franks was charged with desertion and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. He was charged with six years in prison, a sentence that many recognize as harsh. Bergdahl faces a desertion charge and a much more serious charge: misbehavior before the enemy. It is difficult to tell whether or not Franks' case can give us a sense of Bergdahl's future court-martial verdicts.

Eugene Fidell, one of Bergdahl's defense attorneys, believes that the key differences in Franks' case prevent us from making an accurate prediction. "Franks was an officer. He was educated at taxpayer expense," Fidell told Stripes. "He wasn’t being held captive. He was being paid good money. The disparities are very substantial."

Franks' legal team is currently seeking an appeal of his sentence. Bergdahl's much-anticipated court-martial is still scheduled for August, but many believe the chances of it starting then are slim due to the red tape his defense team is currently dealing with in the discovery process.

If you are a military servicemember who has been accused of a crime, we invite you to contact Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law today. Attorney Jordan is a U.S. Army veteran who has built his reputation on securing favorable results for accused armed service members stationed all over the world.

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Categories: Military Law News

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