President Barack Obama appeared with the parents of a U.S. soldier freed from captivity in Afghanistan Saturday, saying Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was "never forgotten" as he was held prisoner by the Taliban.
“While Bowe was gone, he was never forgotten by his parents, who thought about him and prayed for him every day,” Obama said in the Rose Garden, flanked by the soldier’s parents, Jani and Bob Bergdahl.
“And he wasn’t forgotten by his country. The United States of America does not ever leave its men and women in uniform behind.”
Bowe Bergdahl, 28, was turned over by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan to U.S. Special Forces Saturday evening (10:30 a.m. E.T.) in exchange for five prisoners who were held at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center.
The president called Bergdahl’s parents Saturday morning to inform them their long wait was over.
“We can't communicate the words this morning when we heard from the president,” Bowe’s father, Bob Bergdahl, said.
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.
The deal that freed Bergdahl was brokered through the Qatari government.
The five Guantanamo prisoners freed in the exchange are being transferred to Qatar, but Obama said that government has taken steps to ensure the release doesn’t put the U.S. at risk.
Bergdahl was being transferred to the Bagram Airfield military base for medical care, and from there will be sent to Landstuhl, Germany.
Bergdahl’s mother, Jani, said, “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."