Sol­dier’s Idaho home­town ac­cus­tomed to at­ten­tion

The Covington News - - THE WIRE -

HAI­LEY, Idaho (AP) — Bowe Bergdahl’s home­town is ac­cus­tomed to celebrity and the at­ten­tion it brings.

Singer-song­writer Ca­role King owns a ranch nearby. Bruce Wil­lis has been try­ing to sell his 20-acre Hai­ley es­tate for years. Ernest Hem­ing­way shot him­self to death in neigh­bor­ing Ketchum, and his grand­daugh­ter, Mariel Hem­ing­way, is a lo­cal.

But the re­lease of the Amer­i­can sol­dier in a pris­oner swap with the Tal­iban has drawn a less sa­vory form of at­ten­tion, sur­pris­ing some towns­peo­ple who are more used to en­ter­tain­ing happy tourists than be­ing part of a na­tional de­bate. The com­mu­nity can­celed a planned wel­come-home cel­e­bra­tion rather than be­come ground zero for crit­i­cism of the deal that freed its na­tive son.

“I think so many people have come into this area where they can just lead with their heart,” said Sue Martin, owner of Zaney’s Cof­fee Shop, who de­scribed Hai­ley as the sort of place where lo­cals care about each other.

Martin said she has closed her cof­fee shop for nearly a week to serve as a spokes­woman for the Bergdahl fam­ily. She said she’s los­ing money, but she felt it was her duty.

“This is the right thing to do, and that’s just what we do around here,” Martin said Thurs­day.

She said her cus­tomers have told her, “You’re do­ing the right thing, Sue. We’ll be back.”

A day ear­lier, Martin and other or­ga­niz­ers de­cided be­cause of se­cu­rity con­cerns to call off the party cel­e­brat­ing Berdgahl’s ex­pected re­turn home from five years in Tal­iban cap­tiv­ity. The town has been flooded with an in­flux of hate mail and an­gry phone calls from people who be­lieved the planned cel­e­bra­tion con­doned Bergdahl’s ac­tions.

Like many re­sort towns in the pic­turesque re­gion be­tween the Rock­ies and the Cas­cade Moun­tains, Hai­ley is some­what in­su­lated from the rest of the state.

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