Other soldiers who knew Bergdahl well came in for even more frequent questioning. “There were a couple of other people who were closer to Bergdahl and had more specific information,” Cornelison remembered. “In one case, they sent a helicopter to pick up [a soldier who knew Bergdahl]. We were in the middle of a mission, and they sent a helicopter to pick him up and bring him back to FOB Sharana to be questioned.”

That suggests just how seriously top Army officers and criminal investigators took the case, and how thoroughly it has been investigated. But now, with even more investigations ahead, the circumstances of Bergdahl’s reappearance have made the soldiers’ promises of silence impossible to keep. After first hearing that Bergdahl was back, Cornelison then saw President Obama at the White House with Bergdahl’s parents. Cornelison and several of his former colleagues sensed that some sort of heroic narrative might be forming — and they knew it wasn’t true.

“When the president was there with Bergdahl’s parents, we got this feeling that the American people needed to be told the truth,” Cornelison, who believes Bergdahl deserted his post, explained. “We were there, this is not hearsay, we were on the ground, the first ones to go looking for him. The American public needs to know the truth about Bergdahl before treating him like any kind of war hero, because that is completely false.”