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The father of a Utah soldier reportedly killed while searching for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl says the United States should not have traded Taliban detainees for the prisoner of war.
"It's just disgraceful that [President Barack] Obama would trade five high-level Taliban officers for this guy who basically defected," said Bob Curtiss, father of the killed soldier.
"Leave him there," Curtiss said Tuesday of Bergdahl. "That was his choice, his decision."
Army Staff Sgt. Kurt Curtiss, of Murray, died Aug. 26, 2009, in Afghanistan nine weeks after Bergdahl's disappearance. Curtiss and Bergdahl were both assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
Some of Curtiss' comrades came forward Monday to say Curtiss and five other soldiers died in searches for Bergdahl, who fell into enemy hands by walking away from his unit.
The Taliban released Bergdahl on Saturday in a deal that frees five men who had been held Guantanamo Bay. The five, all of whom held leadership posts in the Taliban, must remain in Qatar for a year.
Kurt Curtiss' widow, Elizabeth Ivory, spoke to NBC's "Today Show" in a segment that aired Tuesday morning. She said she is not certain her late husband actually died searching for Bergdahl.
"I'm more than happy that he is no longer a prisoner of war, but I'm not OK with people wanting to call him a hero," Ivory told the network. She remarried in August.
Ivory's father, Ken Black, said he is reserving judgment until he knows more about how Bergdahl was captured.
"I would like to know his side of the story," Black said Tuesday. "I'm not going to judge anything in regards to this individual. And I would hope he would come out and truthfully tell people why he left or what his circumstances were when he went missing. Of course, this whole deal has brought up bad memories."
Both Black, who lives in West Valley City, and Bob Curtiss, who lives in Philadelphia, said they did not know anything about Kurt Curtiss' connection to the Bergdahl search until after Bergdahl's release.
The Army had told the family, Bob Curtiss said, that his son died searching for a Taliban leader who had taken refuge in a medical clinic demanding treatment. Curtiss died from gunshot wounds.
A video posted on YouTube in 2011 claims to show Curtiss kicking in the medical clinic door moments before his death. Soldiers then describe Curtiss' death and retrieving his body. The video includes interviews with soldiers in Kurt Curtiss' unit, but there is no mention of Bergdahl.
Bob Curtiss said he tried for two years to obtain the incident report on his son's death, but never received it. The father said he made his inquiries through the casualty-assistance officer assigned to his family.
Bob Curtiss like his daughter-in-law isn't certain what his son was doing when he died but is confident the swap for Bergdahl should not have been made.
"It's very hurtful to the soldiers who gave their lives to their country," Bob Curtiss said. "It's like a slap in the face to these soldiers."
In addition to his wife, Curtiss is survived by two children.
Black said he was happy for Bergdahl's parents. But his son-in-law's death has been difficult for everyone in his family.
"It's not easy," Black said, "rehashing the things that happened at the time of Kurt being killed."
President defends deal
President Barack Obama brushed aside questions Tuesday about the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's capture. He said the United States has a "sacred" obligation to not leave men and women in uniform behind.
"Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity," Obama said during a news conference in Poland as he opened a three-country European visit. "We don't condition that."
The Associated Press