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November 23, 2014

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Army: Bergdahl not joined by family after return

Image

Voice Of Jihad Website / AP

In this file image taken from video obtained from Voice Of Jihad Website, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, sits in a vehicle guarded by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan.

SAN ANTONIO — When Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl arrived back in the United States following five years of captivity by the Taliban in Afghanistan, he wasn't joined by his family, military officials say.

Bergdahl was brought to Texas from an Army medical facility in Germany, where he had been recovering. Maj. Gen. Joseph P. DiSalvo, who greeted Bergdahl early Friday upon his arrival, said he exchanged a few words with Bergdahl after a three-vehicle convoy met him.

"He appeared just like any sergeant would when they see a two-star general, a little bit nervous. But he looked good and saluted and had good deportment," DiSalvo said at a news conference Friday, adding that Bergdahl was in stable condition.

Army officials would not say when Bergdahl's relatives might show up at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston.

In a statement read at the news conference, Bergdahl's parents said they "are overjoyed that their son has returned to the United States" but asked for privacy.

Col. Bradley Poppen, an Army psychologist, said a soldier typically determines when to reunite with his or her family. Poppen declined to release further details, citing the family's request for privacy. After the news conference, officials said they did not know if Bergdahl has spoken with his family.

The Idaho native was captured in Afghanistan in June 2009 and released by the Taliban on May 31 in a deal struck by the Obama administration in which five senior Taliban officials were released from detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Officials have kept a lid on details of Bergdahl's condition out of concern that he not be rushed back into the public spotlight and amid a public uproar over the circumstances of his capture and release.

Bergdahl is working daily with health professionals to regain a sense of normalcy and move forward with his life, military officials said. Officials said there is no timeline for the final step in Bergdahl's reintegration process.

"We will proceed at his pace," Poppen said.

Military officials declined to give details on what Bergdahl might remember about his capture or what he knows about the controversy surrounding his release.

Many have criticized the Obama administration for agreeing to release five Taliban prisoners in exchange for Bergdahl. Some of Bergdahl's former Army colleagues have accused him of deserting his post.

Critics also have said the five Taliban members could return to the battlefield. Administration officials have told Congress that four of the five Taliban officials likely will rejoin the fight.

In the short time he has been back on U.S. soil, Bergdahl, who can walk on his own, has been on a bland diet and has shown a fondness for peanut butter, officials said.

While at Brooke Army Medical Center, Bergdahl will have a "standard patient room" but will not have access to a television, said Col. Ronald Wool, who is in charge of Bergdahl's medical care.

"We will bring him up slowly to what has been transpiring over the last five years," Wool said.

Bergdahl arrived speaking English, though officials indicated his speech had been impacted from being in captivity for so long.

"Overall our assessment is that he did not have the opportunity the past five years to practice and speak his English," said Wool.

Poppen said that during his captivity, Bergdahl had no control over any aspect of his life, including what and when he could eat. "So one of the concepts is to get him a sense of predictability and control of his environment," he said.

Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.

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