Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl made his long-awaited return to the U.S. Friday morning after five years in Taliban captivity.
Bergdahl spent almost two weeks receiving medical treatment and counseling at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany following his May 31 release from Taliban captivity, according to The Associated Press. He will now undergo rehabilitation treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
“Our focus remains on his health and well-being,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.
The process could take weeks, according to The New York Times. The climax of the treatment will be his return to his hometown of Hailey, Idaho, to reunite with his parents. Bergdahl reportedly has not been in direct contact with his mother and father since his release.
Bergdahl’s release – a prisoner swap for five Taliban members held at Guantánamo Bay – has sparked controversy. The Obama administration reportedly did not consult Congress or the Afghan government in the days and weeks leading up to the exchange, according to The Wall Street Journal.
All five Taliban members that were swapped for Bergdahl were considered “high risk” and “of high intelligence value,” according to Department of Defense documents made public through WikiLeaks.
“Sgt. Bergdahl’s return is a powerful reminder of the enduring, sacred commitment our nation makes to all those who serve in uniform,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement at the time of Bergdahl’s liberation.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the U.S. is now guilty of “negotiating with terrorists” in orchestrating the prisoner exchange. Boehner said this could give rise to an increase in American POWs that could be used as bargaining chips, according to NBC News
“There is not any doubt in my mind, there are going to be costs – of lost lives – associated with what came out of this,” Boehner said in a news conference Tuesday.
Bergdahl is also dogged by accusations of desertion. He went missing from his military base in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, and was at some point picked up by militants linked to the Haqqani network, according to CNN.
But some of his former brothers in arms claim Bergdahl deserted his post. Fueling the speculation is an email Bergdahl sent to his family before his disappearance. The email, later published in Rolling Stone, paints a picture of a deeply frustrated soldier.
“I am ashamed to be an [A]merican. And the title of U.S. soldier is just the lie of fools,” he wrote. “The horror that is [A]merica is disgusting.”
Defense officials have said they plan to investigate Bergdahl’s case, according to Fox News. An Army investigation in the months following his disappearance concluded that Bergdahl left the base of his own free will, according to CNN.
The controversy surrounding Bergdahl’s return forced his hometown of Hailey, Idaho, to cancel a celebration honoring his homecoming. Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle said event organizers decided it would be best to bag the Bergdahl bash.
“We’re a town of 8,000 people. The last thing we want is trouble,” Haemmerle told the Los Angeles Times. “For better or worse, there are people who blame Bowe for the deaths of other soldiers who searched for him.”
Local Jane Drussel said she saw an influx of threatening emails and phone calls after hanging a “Welcome Home Bowe” sign in her storefront.
“We’re just a small community that cares about those who go out and fight for us. For us to be criticized because we care, that’s not right,” Drussel told USA Today. “They’re calling our town a traitor town. That’s offensive. We are all about family here.”