Sun, Jun 15, 2014 - Page 7 News List

US soldier back home after five years as captive

ROAD TO RECOVERY:US Army Sergeant Bergdahl was held prisoner by the Afghan Taliban and medics say he is stable, but has a long rehabilitation ahead

AFP, WASHINGTON

The US soldier freed in a swap with the Afghan Taliban is in stable condition after five years in captivity, but has not yet been reunited with his parents, military officers said on Friday.

US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl returned to the country in an overnight flight and is undergoing medical treatment and speaking to psychologists at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

The 28-year-old soldier “looked good” upon arrival, Major General Joseph DiSalvo told a news conference.

He joked that Bergdahl appeared “a little bit nervous” before a two-star general like himself, “just like any sergeant would.”

Bergdahl was able to walk into the hospital without problems and doctors were encouraged by his stable condition, said Colonel Ronald Wool, a physician at the medical center.

“Overall, we’re pleased with his physical state,” he said. “We allowed him to get settled in to the hospital and into his room and his environment, and we are going to be planning more comprehensive testing and consultation.”

The only American in uniform to be held by insurgents in the Afghanistan war, Bergdahl will eventually face questions from investigators about the circumstances of his disappearance and whether he deserted his post.

However, he will first receive more medical attention, as specialists try to help him shift from a prisoner’s survival mode to more “normal” behavior, officers said.

“In captivity, fundamentally, your decision to make any choice is taken away so we increase their chances to make choices and have a sense of control,” psychologist Colonel Bradley Poppen said.

“We also work to normalize the behaviors, letting them know that copious skills they used in captivity, although functional in that environment, may not be functional now, but they were normal at the time,” Poppen added.

Under the US military’s “reintegration” rules for freed prisoners of war, Bergdahl is permitted to see his parents, but the timing of his eventual reunion remains unclear.

The soldier can decide when to meet family, but officials declined to specify a date for his parents’ first visit to safeguard their privacy.

Amid a media frenzy over his case, Bergdahl’s parents, who live in Idaho, appealed to be left alone while they try to help their son.

“While the Bergdahls are overjoyed that their son has returned to the US, Mr and Mrs Bergdahl don’t intend to make any travel plans public,” the family said in a statement issued through Idaho National Guard spokesman Colonel Tim Marsano. “They ask for continued privacy as they concentrate on their son’s reintegration.”

His father, Bob Bergdahl, has said his family now faced a long road to aid their son’s recovery.

“It isn’t over for us,” he said last week. “In many ways, it’s just beginning for Jani and I, and our family. There’s a long process here.”

Bergdahl’s 2009 disappearance from a base in eastern Afghanistan fueled speculation that the soldier abandoned his post before he was captured and that he may face prosecution by military authorities.

The US Army said it would ensure Bergdahl “receives the necessary care, time and space” to complete his transition after the ordeal, but added that once the “reintegration” is complete, “the army will continue its comprehensive review into the circumstances of his disappearance and captivity.”

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