Bob Bergdahl said he was proud of his son's patience, perseverance and ability to adapt during nearly five years as a prisoner of the Taliban. Bowe Bergdahl was freed Saturday in exchange for five Guantanamo terrorism detainees.
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"But most of all, I'm proud of how much you wanted to help the Afghan people, and what you were willing to do to go to that length," Bob Bergdahl said, fighting back tears during a press conference in Boise. "I'll say it again: I'm so proud of how far you were willing to go to help the Afghan people. And I think you have succeeded."
Parents Bob and Jani Bergdahl didn't elaborate on what that meant.
The circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's capture remain something of a mystery. There has been some speculation that he willingly walked away from his unit, raising the question of whether he could face charges.
In 2012, Rolling Stone magazine quoted emails Bergdahl is said to have sent to his parents that suggest he was disillusioned with America's mission in Afghanistan, had lost faith in the U.S. Army's mission there and was considering desertion. Bergdahl told his parents he was "ashamed to even be American." The Associated Press could not independently authenticate the emails.
Bergdahl's parents declined to take any questions at the press conference, but they spoke about what they anticipate will be a long healing process as their son reintegrates into American society.
"We're talking like this because we haven't talked to Bowe yet," Bob Bergdahl told the crowd of about three dozen journalists and nearly as many supporters of prisoners of war and those missing in action at the Idaho National Guard's Gowen Field. "That's because Bowe has been gone so long that it's going to be very difficult to come back."
Bob Bergdahl urged Bowe to trust his military reintegration team, and Jani Bergdahl told her son to take all the time he needs to heal and decompress. They said they were grateful for the work that the U.S. government and other countries including Qatar, which served as a go-between in the negotiations did to bring their son home.
"You are from a strong tribe, you are even stronger now," Jani Bergdahl said. "Five years is a seemingly endless long time, but you've made it. ... You are free. Freedom is yours. I will see you soon, my beloved son."