When Bergdahl left, some stayed, served and died

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Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass wonders about the men killed searching for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in 2009.

Most Americans know the name of the soldier who set down his gun, walked away from his post in Afghanistan and became a captive of the Taliban.

That soldier whom President Barack Obama ransomed by offering the Taliban what they've wanted for years:

The release of five suspected terrorists from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, a deal that allows them to circle back and kill more Americans.

The soldier at the center of things is Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. His face and name are front and center in the news.

But what about the others who were killed searching for him when he left his post in 2009? Can you name them?

CNN's Jake Tapper first reported their names, doing stories on the grief of the families. And by doing so, Tapper told Americans something more important than who won or who lost in the politics of this messy business.

There might be more names. And there is much about the hunt for Bergdahl that we still don't know. The White House is in full public relations panic, and there is no political advantage for Team Obama to discuss the dead.

Still, the names below have been widely reported as those of men killed trying to find Bergdahl when he disappeared into the arms of the Taliban.

Pfc. Matthew Michael Martinek, of Illinois; 2nd Lt. Darryn Deen Andrews; Staff Sgt. Clayton Patrick Bowen; Pfc. Morris "Mo" Lewis Walker; Staff Sgt. Kurt Robert Curtiss; Staff Sgt. Michael Chance Murphrey.

"What we hope will not be lost on the American people is the true heroism of the soldiers who risked their safety to relentlessly attempt to rescue Bowe," said Martinek's mother, Cheryl Brandes. "One of those brave men was our son and brother Matthew Martinek."

Martinek lived in DeKalb, was a graduate of Bartlett High School and played on the football team.

He was sent to Afghanistan in 2009. In Paktika province, he was killed when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with a roadside bomb, small-arms fire and a rocket-propelled grenade.

It would be a mistake to say — as some of Obama's critics have claimed — that Bergdahl led to their deaths. That's not fair to Bergdahl or the president. Their lives were at risk just by being in Afghanistan.

They could have been killed on other duty. But the duty they were given was to find the missing American. Some who were given that job died.

The wives, children and parents of the dead aren't interested in quibbling. Their loved ones didn't lay their rifles down and wander off to find the Taliban. They did their duty.

Bergdahl apparently did not. But we don't know what exactly was in his mind, what fears and perhaps even fantasies motivated him.

Obama looks foolish or worse in all of this. He looks like a politician who desperately wanted a feel-good photo op in the White House Rose Garden with Bergdahl's family. And now he owns it.

He stood with Bergdahl's mother and the father who'd issued, then deleted, a tweet on May 28 saying, "I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners. God will repay for the death of every Afghan child, ameen!"

And still, the president wanted to stand with the family and tell Americans that we don't leave our people behind.

Then he sent out national security adviser Susan Rice on the Sunday talk shows to speak of Bergdahl in heroic terms. This is the same Rice who went on the Sunday talk shows just before Obama's re-election to lie to the American people about what triggered the attack in Benghazi.

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