President Barack Obama delivered an emotional statement in the Rose Garden Saturday evening, flanked by the parents of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed from captivity earlier Saturday and is now in U.S. custody.
“While Bowe Bergdahl was gone, he was never forgotten,” Obama said. “We are never going to give up our search for soldiers who are unaccounted for.”
U.S. Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel said earlier Saturday that Bergdahl’s release came as part of a negotiation that included the release of five Afghan detainees from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Hagel said those five detainees were being transferred to Qatar, and he said their release would not compromise the U.S.’s national security.
The 28-year-old Bergdahl, who is from Idaho, had been held captive by the Taliban since June 2009. He is able to walk and in “good health,” a senior Obama administration official said.
Obama said Saturday night he couldn’t “imagine the hardship” the Bergdahls went through. Bergdahl’s parents both spoke after Obama. His mother, Jani, beamed as she thanked everyone who supported her son during his captivity.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone who has supported Bowe. He has had a wonderful team everywhere,” Jani said.
Bowe’s father, Bob, said he worried his son had lost the English language over the course of his five years in captivity. So he spoke to him in Pashto.
“I’m a father who wants his son back,” Bob said.
After the pair were finished delivering their statements, Obama shook Bob’s hand and hugged Jani.
“It’s wonderful,” Obama said. “A good day.”
“Yes, it is a good day,” she replied, as they walked back into the White House.
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