Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Serious Head and Hand Wounds Described by Bergdahl Searchers

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Serious Head and Hand Wounds Described by Bergdahl Searchers

Article excerpt

FORT BRAGG, N.C. * Soldiers and an airman described a shattered hand and a head wound Thursday as prosecutors presented evidence that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's disappearance in Afghanistan endangered those who searched for him.

The testimony came during the sentencing phase for Bergdahl, who faces up to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Bergdahl was held captive by Taliban allies for five years after abandoning his remote post in 2009.

Several witnesses described a search mission by U.S. and Afghan troops to comb two villages for information related to Bergdahl days after he disappeared.

Among the most vivid testimony came from Jonathan Morita, describing how his hand was shattered by a rocket-propelled grenade. He has since had multiple surgeries and is left without full use of his right hand.

"Right about here is where they sewed on my thumb where it was dangling off," he said, pointing to a picture of sutures displayed on a video monitor.

He said he can't bend his index finger or thumb and had to learn again how to write and brush his teeth with limited mobility in his dominant hand.

He was with a half-dozen U.S. troops that were accompanying a larger group of Afghan soldiers on the July 2009 search mission when they were ambushed by insurgents using small arms, machine guns and explosive projectiles.

One rocket-propelled grenade hit Morita's rifle, shattering his hand. A second landed nearby, lodging shrapnel in his left elbow.

"I just thought I was going to definitely die right there in Afghanistan," said Morita, who earned the rank of sergeant before leaving the Army.

After his injury during the firefight, he said he "pulled out a Bible, read a quick verse" and then grabbed a handgun to return fire before a medical helicopter arrived.

Nearby, Master Sgt. Mark Allen suffered a head wound during the ambush. …

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