Bergdahl in good physical condition on return to US, Army says
A video screen grab shows passengers being greeted at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, early Friday, June 13, 2014. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who has been recovering in Germany after five years as a Taliban captive, returned to the United States on this plane to continue his medical treatment.
SAN ANTONIO — Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is in stable condition and will work daily with medical and mental health professionals in a reintegration process to help him gain physical and emotional stability, Army medical officials said Friday.
He arrived at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio early Friday in uniform, saluted a two-star general, walked into the hospital and settled into his quarters.
“We are pleased with his physical state,” an Army official said.
He has not yet met with his family from Hailey, Idaho.
Bergdahl, 28, was released May 31 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after being held for five years by Islamic insurgents. Bergdahl was held prisoner longer than any soldier since the Vietnam war.
His release has touched off intense debate in Washington about whether the White House gave up too much for Bergdahl and whether President Barack Obama should have consulted Congress before agreeing to release the Taliban detainees. Obama has said he has no regrets about the exchange, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel defended the swap this week, insisting it was the “last, best chance” to get Bergdahl back and did not violate U.S. policy.
The Idaho native initially was sent to a U.S. military hospital in Germany for medical treatment and counseling, the first and most intense phase in what Army doctors at a Friday briefing called “reintegration.”
Earlier this week, a senior U.S. official said Bergdahl is physically healthy, but confinement in a small space and other harsh treatment as a captive has left him psychologically unstable. He was “struggling with psychological issues” that his doctors hoped to ease before sending him to San Antonio for more treatment, the official said.
Last week, a homecoming celebration in Idaho was canceled for fear of protests. Bergdahl’s friends and relatives did not show up to greet him Friday, an Army spokesman said. It’s not clear when Bergdahl will see them.
His family, from the small town of Hailey, released a carefully written statement early Friday.
“While the Bergdahls are overjoyed that their son has returned to the United States, Mr. and Mrs. Bergdahl don’t intend to make any travel plans public. They ask for continued privacy as they concentrate on their son’s reintegration,” according to the statement released through the Idaho National Guard.
An initial Army investigation concluded that Bergdahl left his remote base in eastern Afghanistan without permission in June 2009, although his motive remains unclear. Some who served with Bergdahl said he deserted his post, imperiling fellow soldiers who searched for him. He is facing an investigation into those allegations.
The issue could prove to be pivotal to his reintegration into the military and society.
Bergdahl is still technically in the Army and is up for promotion this month. He could return to his unit in Alaska, be reassigned or discharged.