The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

April 8, 2013

Taking up cause of POW

Local woman does not know soldier

By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer

JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP — Frances Foster-Austin said she won’t rest until Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is freed from his captors.

The Jefferson Township woman describes herself as a “staunch supporter” of the military and she’s been inspired to take up Bergdahl’s cause because few folks have, she said.

“You would think something as important as a POW (prisoner of war), that they would all be educated in that area,” Foster-Austin said.

But after contacting several members of Congress, she found out that some elected officials don’t know about Bergdahl, who has been held captive since June 30, 2009.

The circumstances behind Bergdahl’s capture by the Taliban are vague. He has appeared in several YouTube videos and has been used as a pawn in negotiations for the release of Afghan prisoners being held by the U.S.

March 28 was his 27th birthday. He’s a native of Sun Valley, Idaho, and joined the Army in search of adventure, according to a 2012 article in Rolling Stone magazine.

That story goes on to detail how Bergdahl’s disenchantment with the military and the American cause in Afghanistan waned as time passed during his tour of duty.

Foster-Austin doesn’t mention any of that in her letters seeking support for the soldier, but said the country needs to do whatever it takes to obtain his release.

“Every member of Congress that doesn’t know the Bowe Bergdahl story should be ashamed of themselves,” she said, adding that American officials need to “do whatever it is they need to do” to necessitate his freedom.

“What happened to ‘leave no man behind?,’ ” she asked, adding that she fears the worst for Bergdahl, with the U.S. troop withdrawal set for August 2014.

“We were able to get bin Laden, why couldn’t we do the same with Bergdahl?” she said.

“I can’t imagine the heartache his family’s been going through,” she said.

Foster-Austin’s made yellow bracelets and stickers to call attention to Bergdahl’s cause and distributes them to anyone who’ll accept them.

She’s also started a Facebook group, “Businesses for Bowe,” and is seeking supporters to email her at businessesforbowe@yahoo.com