Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl received his sentence after pleading guilty to charges stemming from his 2009 capture by the Taliban. While he is receiving no prison time, he has been given a dishonorable discharge.
At first, it may sound like he’s gotten off very lightly, given that he pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, and the fact that, according to the Washington Times, he endangered the fellow soldiers in his unit. According to the Manual for Courts Martial, the death penalty is a potential punishment for both of those charges.
However, the dishonorable discharge is actually going to follow Bergdahl for the rest of his life. It is such a severe consequence that it can only be imposed by a general court martial, and even then, only after conviction for certain crimes.
According to Lawyers.com, this discharge wipes out any and all military and veteran benefits for Bergdahl. That means no access to the GI Bill for further education, no VA home loans, no VA medical benefits. Bergdahl gets none of these benefits.
In addition, according to 18 USC 922(g), Bergdahl is now prohibited from owning any sort of firearm or ammunition. Even one pistol round could land him 10 years in the federal slammer (see 18 USC 924).
In addition, GettingHired.com notes that a dishonorable discharge is entered into law-enforcement databases. Furthermore, that site pointed out that Bergdahl will probably face “significant problems securing employment in civilian society.”
In short, Bowe Bergdahl may be a free man in that he is serving no prison time, but he has lost out on a lot of benefits, has lost his Second Amendment rights, and will be facing strong public backlash for the rest of his life.