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'Freedom Is Yours': American POW Is On His Way Home


It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath. The only remaining American POW from the war in Afghanistan is on his way home. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was released yesterday as part of a prisoner exchange with the Taliban.

In a moment we'll hear about the five Guantanamo detainees who were freed in order to secure Bergdahl's release. But first we're going to Bergdahl's home state of Idaho. Earlier today, Bergdahl's parents, Jenny and Bob, spoke in Boise.


JENNY BERGDAHL: Five years is a seemingly endless, long time. But you've made it. I imagine you are more patient and compassionate than ever. You are free, free to miss yours. I will see you soon my beloved son. I love you, Bowe.

RATH: Bergdahl's parents have not yet spoken to their son. He's currently receiving medical care at a military facility in Germany. His parents said the recovery process will be long and gradual, and they asked for patience. Jessica Robinson is a reporter with the Northwest News Network and has been speaking with people from Bergdahl's hometown. Jessica, thanks for joining us.

JESSICA ROBINSON, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

RATH: So what's been reaction to the news in Bowe's hometown?

ROBINSON: It's been just totally excited. The town for years, ever since Bowe was captured, has just been covered in these yellow ribbons and signs saying, bring Bowe home. And we miss you Bowe. And those signs are now being taken down and they're being changed out for signs that say, welcome home Bowe.

There was an event that was planned for later this month that was supposed to be, sort of, a commemoration recognizing that it would have been five years since he was captured. And that's now been changed into a welcome home event for him. Everyone in town is just, kind of, sharing their stories of when they heard about the news and what they were doing and who told them.

RATH: Now, at the press conference today, Bob Bergdahl says that his mission is still ongoing. What did he mean by that?

ROBINSON: Well, Bob and Jenny are now looking ahead to the recovery process for Bowe. But Bowe's parents say that they're just bracing for it to be quite slow and they're trying to think it out. And just take their time with it. Bowe is apparently having trouble speaking English, and as you said his parents haven't actually talked to him yet.

And Bob said that that's because - he compared it to a diver, where you can't come up for air too fast. And he said that in the same way, Bowe can't reintegrate with his family and his community too fast. He needs time to decompress. It's unclear how long that will take. It's also clear that they're worried about the new celebrity status that Bowe has gotten over the last couple of days, really internationally, and they're concerned that the attention and the media coverage could interfere with his recovery. And so they - Bob Bergdahl issued a kind of warning to the media and said that someday there will be a time for interviews and books about Bowe. But he said that day is still a long ways off.

RATH: So you, you - you talked with some folks there. Can you tell us what Bowe is like?

ROBINSON: You know I've been trying to get a sense of him over the last several years that I've been covering this. And he seems like he kind of defies stereotype. He is someone who did fencing and ballet, and he's apparently quite a remarkable marksman. He was home schooled for many years and lived - his family lived off the grid.

They live down a dirt road in a little house in a canyon. And Bowe really grew up with those hills around him. And I was speaking with one person today who knew him who said that he's very social and he is a great conversationalist. But really what Bowe liked to do was to head off into those hills, with his backpack and sometimes disappear for quite a while.

RATH: That's Jessica Robinson. She's a reporter with the Northwest News Network. She joined us from Boise, Idaho. Jessica, thanks so much.

ROBINSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.