News / USA

Former Prisoner of War Bergdahl Returns to US, Begins Rehabilitation

Col. Bradley Poppen answers a question during a news conference regarding Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and the reintegration process, in San Antonio, Texas, June 13, 2014.
Col. Bradley Poppen answers a question during a news conference regarding Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and the reintegration process, in San Antonio, Texas, June 13, 2014.
Greg Flakus
— US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who spent five years as a prisoner of war in Afghanistan, arrived Friday at an Army medical center in San Antonio, Texas, to begin reintegration treatment. Army officials say he still has not seen his parents and it may take some time before he is ready to speak publicly.
 
Bergdahl is now in a standard hospital room at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, considered one of the top hospitals in the country for treating combat-related conditions. They say he will remain at the medical center in San Antonio until he has recovered from his time in captivity.

They say the 28-year-old Bergdahl has not yet been informed about the controversy surrounding his capture in Afghanistan and his release.

Major General Joseph DiSalvo told reporters that doctors and psychologists will work with Bergdahl on both his physical and mental state.
 
"During his stay here, Sergeant Bergdahl will participate in reintegration, a process that will aim to equip Sergeant Bergdahl with the necessary tools to regain appropriate levels of physical and emotional stability," said DiSalvo.

 
FILE: In this image taken from video obtained from Voice of Jihad website on June 4, 2014, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, right, stands with a Taliban fighter in eastern Afghanistan.FILE: In this image taken from video obtained from Voice of Jihad website on June 4, 2014, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, right, stands with a Taliban fighter in eastern Afghanistan.
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FILE: In this image taken from video obtained from Voice of Jihad website on June 4, 2014, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, right, stands with a Taliban fighter in eastern Afghanistan.
FILE: In this image taken from video obtained from Voice of Jihad website on June 4, 2014, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, right, stands with a Taliban fighter in eastern Afghanistan.
For five years, he was held prisoner by the Taliban in Afghanistan and had no opportunity to speak English or to make his own decisions about daily activities. Doctors say the one dietary request he has made so far is for peanut butter.
 
DiSalvo welcomed the soldier to the base after he arrived on an army flight from a base in Germany. He said Bergdahl maintained proper military comportment and spoke only a few words, but did speak in clear English.
 
Army psychologist Colonel Bradley Poppen said part of the program developed for soldiers who have been held captive or suffered other types of isolation consists of reintroducing them to normal levels of personal control.
 
"In captivity your decision to make any choice is fundamentally taken away so we slowly increase their chances to make choices and have a sense of control," said Poppen.
 
The army psychologist also said Bergdahl will be encouraged to tell his story as part of the process, but he said the goal of this therapy has nothing to do with investigating what happened to the soldier in Afghanistan. Some former soldiers who served with him say he walked away from his post in what they describe as desertion.
 
Poppen said Bergdahl has not yet communicated with his parents and that it will be up to him to decide when he is ready to meet them. The Bergdahls say they will not reveal their plans to visit their son in the interest of family privacy.
 
Asked whether Bergdahl suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, Colonel Poppen said there has as yet been no such diagnosis. He said he and the medical team in San Antonio view Bergdahl as a normal, healthy soldier who survived an abnormal event.
 
Poppen also said it is far too early to say how long the integration process will take. "In general, the longer a person's isolation or captivity, the longer the reintegration process would take, but, again, each case truly is different," he said.

A Pentagon statement Friday said the Army will continue its comprehensive review of the circumstances of Bergdahl's disappearance and captivity.

Sergeant Bergdahl was released by the Taliban on May 31 in a swap for five Taliban prisoners who were being held at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The exchange has sparked controversy in the United States partly because of questions about why Bergdahl abandoned his post in 2009 and because there is fear that the released Taliban fighters might engage in terrorism.

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by: Not Again from: Canada
June 13, 2014 8:57 PM
It is very easy to jump to conclusions, from anecdotal field reports/information; if the situation wrt this soldier is backtracted to his discharge from the Coast Guard a completely different narrative emerges; if one believes the reports in the media, he was not mentally fit to serve. If truly he was not mentally fit to serve in the Coast Guard, then the inescapable conclusion would be, that he would be even less fit to serve as a front line combat soldier. His entire episode, potential abandonment of post/going AWOL, may be fully due to his initial mental fitness state. Until all the facts are ascertained, by competent professionals, clearly everyone should reserve their judgements. If he was truly unfit, there should be absolutely no question that he should have been returned.
The issue, that needs resolution, is that better communications need to be established, between the various services, to ensure that people found unfit, especially mentally unfit, for the rigours of one service, can't just walk into another service recruitment org and join up, such a sit could have very grave consequences.
The entire sit about his recruitment is bizarre, and given the information, no question that the Obama administration took the moral high road, which is the expected road by the individual's gvmt.
It is normal and even duty bound for Western nations to do everything possible to recover their soldiers, especially in a sit in which this particular soldier may not have been fit to serve right from day one, and serious questions arise about his current state. Potentially he will never recover from his initial condition, and his negative 5 yrs of captivity may just make his condition worse.
As far as the terrorists, the Afghan security services should be able to recapture the terrorists, if they go back to their bad old ways....

In Response

by: jhorton from: tn
June 14, 2014 10:49 PM
I completely agree. I understand the controversy but clearly this individual was having mental issues. Considering the situation that is normal I would assume. I see clearly his actions hurt others but who could truly say put in this situation that they could certainly behave differently. I do not want to seem overly compassionate to one persons plight but at the same time I cannot know how each person would react. Mentally each person is very different. And he is our soldier first and foremost. We put him in that position we should help him come back. Just like any soldier. And imagine he was your child which he easily could be.


by: Tristan from: Montréal
June 13, 2014 8:48 AM
Good grammar seems to be lacking as well.

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