(Reuters) - Freed U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl needs time to decompress, his father said on Sunday, predicting that recovering from nearly five years of captivity in Afghanistan will be like a diver who has to return to the surface slowly.
Army Sergeant Bergdahl was released on Saturday in an exchange deal in which five Taliban prisoners were freed from Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba and flown to Qatar.
Bergdahl’s parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl told a news conference in Boise, Idaho that they cannot wait to welcome him home, adding they have not yet spoken to their son.
“There is reason for that, and that is because Bowe has been gone for so long, that it is going to be very difficult to come back,” Bob said. “Bowe is still very resilient. He has passed though all the check points with flying colors.”
But he said the recovery process for his 28-year old son would take time.
“It is like a diver going deep on a dive and he has to stage back up through recompression to get the nitrogen bubbles out of the system. If he comes up too fast, it could kill him.”
Bergdahl’s release, following years of on-off negotiations, suddenly became possible after harder-line factions of the Afghan Taliban shifted course and agreed to back it, U.S. officials said. [ID:nL1N0OH0S5]
Jani Bergdahl addressed her comments to her son, saying she cannot wait to hold him in her arms again.
“Right now so many people are in place to assist you in all the aspects of your recovery to full health. Trust them. It’s OK. Give yourself all the time you need to recover and decompress. There is no hurry,” she said.
Bowe Bergdahl was handed over on Saturday evening to U.S. forces who had flown in by helicopter. The Afghan Taliban said they had released Bergdahl near the border with Pakistan in eastern Afghanistan.
He arrived at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Sunday. After receiving care Bergdahl would be transferred to another military medical facility in San Antonio, Texas, U.S. defense officials said, without giving a date for his return to the United States.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Frances Kerry