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From President Obama’s hometown newspaper:

“Parents of slain Bartlett soldier want answers on Bowe Bergdahl

A soldier from Chicago said Matthew Martinek died in the search for the missing man

By Robert McCoppin, Matthew Walberg and Geoff Ziezulewicz Tribune reporters

6:52 a.m. CDT, June 5, 2014

The parents of a Chicago-area soldier who they say was killed while searching for missing Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are demanding an investigation into whether Bergdahl deserted and how his release was engineered.

Pfc. Matthew Martinek, 20, of Bartlett, was killed on patrol in Afghanistan in September 2009 when his unit was hit by a roadside bomb and attacked with a rocket-propelled grenade and gunfire, the military said.

Martinek's mother, Cheryl Brandes, and stepfather, Ken Luccioni, said members of their son's unit in the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment based in Alaska have told them that Martinek was on a mission to search for Bergdahl at the time he died.

“We want a thorough investigation of Bergdahl's action and that the military code of justice is enforced,” Luccioni said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “We don't want to see this swept under the rug.”

The deal to free Bergdahl on Saturday in a trade for five senior Taliban leaders has prompted a firestorm of criticism from fellow soldiers and others who say his disappearance led to the deaths of seven U.S. troops in the ensuing months.

The Pentagon could not confirm those assertions.

An initial Army investigation concluded that Bergdahl voluntarily left his base.

At least one former soldier who served with Martinek said he was heavily involved in the search for Bergdahl. The soldier also said it caused huge problems when Bergdahl disappeared.

Retired Pfc. Jose Baggett, of Chicago, said that in the days after Bergdahl's disappearance, it seemed as though his platoon was under constant attack. Baggett said he was injured by a roadside bomb and was forced to remain at base during the next mission to look for Bergdahl.

Baggett, 27, said he had tapped Martinek to be a radio telephone operator on the mission in which Martinek was killed. A second lieutenant also was killed in the attack.

“Of course I blamed myself for it,” Baggett said Wednesday.

Baggett, now a student in Chicago, said though he is glad Bergdahl was returned safely and understands the joy his parents must feel, he wants people to understand the damage caused when Bergdahl went missing.

Martinek grew up in the small town of Genoa, in northeastern DeKalb County, before his family moved to Bartlett, where he attended Bartlett High School and played football. He graduated in 2007 before the family moved to DeKalb. He enlisted in the Army and was based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.

His parents said the military told them only that he was “on patrol” when he died.

Luccioni called for a “full and thorough accounting” of the how the deal was made to free Bergdahl and who was responsible.

“The military people I've talked to all feel very betrayed,” he said. “The American people need to know so they can decide for themselves.”

Brandes said she was asked if five years with the Taliban should be enough punishment for Bergdahl. She answered, “This is a lifetime for us. My son will never come home.””


For more on the particulars surrounding Bergdahl's "capture" by the Taliban and specifically the eye-witness testimony from members of his unit, see:

*The article by Stephen F. Hayes titled "We Swore to an Oath and We Upheld Ours. He Did Not" at:

*And the article by Nathan Bradley Bethea titled "We Lost Soldiers In The Hunt For Bergdahl, A Guy Who Walked Off In The Dead Of Night" at:

Latest Activity: Jun 05, 2014 at 8:43 PM

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