UPDATE: Obama Says Captured Soldier Bowe Bergdahl Was 'Never For - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

UPDATE: Obama Says Captured Soldier Bowe Bergdahl Was 'Never Forgotten'

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UPDATE: (NBC) -- President Barack Obama and the parents of newly freed prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl thanked the military and the country in an emotional Rose Garden press conference Saturday.

“We just can’t comprehend the words this morning, when we heard the words from the president,” father Bob Bergdahl said.

U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 28, captured in Afghanistan by the Taliban in 2009, was freed Saturday as part of an international deal that involved freeing five detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

“While Bowe was gone, he was never forgotten, by his parents who thought about him and prayed for him every day,” President Obama said.

“And he wasn’t forgotten by his country. The United States of America does not ever leave its men and women in uniform behind.”

Bergdahl disappeared when he reportedly walked away from a U.S. military base in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009, carrying only a compass and a bottle of water. He was the only U.S. service member ever to be held captive by enemy forces in Afghanistan.

Bergdahl’s mother, Jani, said on Saturday, “I just want to say thank you to everyone who supported Bowe. We will continue to stay strong for Bowe while he recovers.”

Embracing President Obama later, she could be heard saying, “Yes, it’s a good day.”





(NBC) -- The family of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said they were overjoyed when President Barack Obama personally called them Saturday and gave them the news they were hoping desperately to hear: Their son, captured by the Taliban in 2009, was finally coming home.

“We cannot wait to wrap our arms around our only son,” Bergdahl’s parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl, said in a statement.

“We want to thank Bowe's many supporters in Idaho, around the nation and around the world. We thank the Amir of Qatar for his efforts,” they continued. “And of course, we want to take this opportunity to thank all those in the many U.S. Government agencies who never gave up. Today, we are ecstatic!”

Bergdahl, 28, was rescued in Afghanistan at 10:30 a.m. ET — in exchange for five prisoners who were held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center — and is back in the hands of the U.S. military, the officials said.

“We cannot wait to wrap our arms around our only son.”

Bergdahl disappeared when he reportedly walked away from a U.S. military base in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009, carrying only a compass and a bottle of water. He was the only U.S. service member ever to be held captive by enemy forces in Afghanistan.

“Sergeant Bergdahl's recovery is a reminder of America's unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield,” Obama said in a statement.

Although he appeared frail and shaky in a “proof of life” video the U.S. obtained in January, officials told NBC News that he is in good condition and able to walk upon his release.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl appears in a video released by the Taliban in 2010. A Taliban commander is at right. A senior defense official said the rescue of Bergdahl, conducted by U.S. special operations forces, was “peaceful” and happened in eastern Afghanistan along the border.

Eighteen Taliban members were on the site of the exchange, the official said. Multiple U.S. helicopters and overhead surveillance assets provided support and the U.S. team was armed, but no shots were fired, the official added.

The official said that when rescuers brought Bergdahl onto the helicopter, he held up a paper plate on which he had written “SF?” questioning whether the officers were Special Forces. The operators confirmed, yelling over the roar of the helicopter: "Yes, we've been looking for you for a long time."

Bergdahl broke down crying after their response.

Obama said he called Bergdahl's parents to let them know their son would be returning home safely and thank them for their sacrifice.

"It is our ethos that we never leave a fallen comrade," Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said. "Today we have back in our ranks the only remaining captured soldier from our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Welcome home SGT Bowe Bergdahl."

Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, joined the Army in 2008 and was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division in Fort Richardson, Alaska. Less than a year later, he was deployed as a machine gunner to a combat outpost in Pakita Province, Afghanistan, a militant hotbed.

U.S. officials believe Bergdahl spent the majority of his time in captivity in Pakistan, and they are not sure when he was moved back into Afghanistan.

"Yes, we've been looking for you for a long time."

He is thought to have been captured by members of the Haqqani network, which claims allegiance to the Afghan Taliban, yet operates with some degree of autonomy. The State Department named the Haqqani network a foreign terrorist organization in 2012.

The transfer was not negotiated with the Haqqani network, but brokered over a week of talks through the local Qatari government, the senior official said. The opportunity to resume talks became available several weeks before the deal, “and we seized it,” said the official.

Both Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel praised the Emir of Qatar for aiding in Bergdahl's release.

The prisoners that will be exchanged for Bergdahl are Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Noori, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa, Abdul Haq Wasiq. There are now 149 detainees remaining at Guantanamo Bay.

Hagel said security measures are in place to ensure the national security of the United States would not be compromised by the prisoners’ release.

Bergdahl is being transferred to Bagram for medical care, and from there will be sent to Landstuhl, Germany to begin his reintegration process. The U.S. is working to reconnect him with his parents over the phone, but he is not likely to see them until he is back on the U.S., when he is cleared medically.

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