Soldier’s Idaho hometown accustomed to attention
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.