Put former POW on trial, say parents of Bartlett soldier

Updated 6/4/2014 5:43 PM
  • Matthew Martinek

    Matthew Martinek

  • Patriot Guard Riders line the entrance to St. Hubert Catholic Church for the funeral mass of Matthew Martinek.

    Patriot Guard Riders line the entrance to St. Hubert Catholic Church for the funeral mass of Matthew Martinek. GEORGE LECLAIRE/DAILY HERALD 2009

The mother and stepfather of a Bartlett High School graduate who they believe was mortally wounded while searching for an U.S. soldier held prisoner by the Taliban are urging the U.S. military to put the former POW on trial.

Cheryl Brandes and Ken Luccioni have begun a high-profile campaign to make sure that Bowe Bergdahl, who former comrades are now accusing of deserting his Afghan guard post, is tried by the U.S. military. Bergdahl was released by the Taliban this week after five years, in a controversial prisoner exchange. He is currently in an American hospital in Germany.

Pfc. Matthew Martinek, 20, who graduated from Bartlett High School in 2007, died Sept. 11, 2009, at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany from injuries suffered Sept. 4, 2009, in Afghanistan's Pakita province.

According to a Department of Defense news release at the time, Martinek's vehicle was hit by an roadside bomb. When he and six other soldiers tried to secure the vehicle, it was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire.

Martinek was mortally wounded and 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews was killed.

Brandes and Luccioni said Tuesday that while the Pentagon never told them anything more than their son was hit while on patrol, they've been told by reliable sources that their son was part of the massive manhunt that ensued after Bergdahl disappeared from his post on June 30, 2009.

They have not made an official inquiry.

Martinek is one of at least six soldiers thought to have died looking for Bergdahl in the five years he was a Taliban prisoner.

Brandes and Luccioni say they'll spare no effort to pressure the government and military to put Bergdahl on trial.

"Under the military code of justice, if he simply said, 'I'm tired of being in the Army,' and crawled out under a fence, that's desertion," Luccioni said. "If he collaborated with the enemy, that's treason.

"We want a full accounting of the truth -- what led up to him leaving the base and what transpired after.

"There's no question in my mind people will try to sweep this under the rug," he added. "But we owe it to Matthew, and all of those who put their lives at risk to see it through."

"Whether it takes two years or 10 years," Brandes added.

Brandes and Luccioni believe if they can keep the story alive in the media, the pressure will be so great that only a trial will satisfy it.

They were on The O'Reilly Report on Fox News Tuesday night, have talked with The Washington Post and Reuters and have a date with CBS News on Wednesday.

Martinek came from a military family. Both his grandfathers, an uncle, his two older brothers and a nephew all served. His mother, Cheryl, understands that taking this stand will mean telling the story over and over again, never quite being able to put it down.

"You learn to live, but you never forget," Luccioni said reflectively. "I really thought by now the wounds had turned to scars. Then this happened and it's wide open again."

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