The parents of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed from five years in captivity at the hands of the Taliban in exchange for the release of five detainees at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, have been "really hurt" by allegations that he was a traitor, says a former family pastor.
"They have been really hurt," Pastor Phil Proctor of Sterling Presbyterian Church in Sterling, Virginia, told The Associated Press. "They're trying to keep their heads down."
The release of Bergdahl, who is now recovering at a military hospital in Germany, was announced last week, after which some members of Congress, his former platoon mates and other critics alleged that he was captured after walking away from his post. Some have also claimed that at least six soldiers died as part of efforts to save him.
"This very much hit them as a shock and I'm not sure anybody's got the full story," said the pastor, who has called for prayer and compassion for the Bergdahl family.
Proctor, who was the Bergdahl family's pastor in 2003 in Boise, Idaho, and continues to be close to the family, also explained why the soldier's father, Bob Bergdahl, has a full beard and can speak the Pashto language.
"Well the beard thing, and the Pashto, Bob felt from the get-go if there was going to be a diplomatic solution that it was kind of on him to do it," Proctor said. "He felt like as Bowe's father he could reach out and try to speak directly to various people and he did so."
Bergdahl's parents have received threats, according to CNN, which quoted FBI Special Agent William Facer as saying, "We are working jointly with our state and local partners and taking each threat seriously."
Pentagon and Army officials have looked at the allegations but "right now there is no evidence to back that up," an anonymous U.S. official told CNN.
Some have also alleged that the soldier's parents, Bob and Jani, have become Muslim.
"I can attest to both he and Jani's unwavering commitment to Christ and trust in him," Proctor wrote earlier during the week in a letter that was published in The Outer Monologue. "I've prayed with both of them regularly. They both have been through a torture mill that I cannot begin to comprehend – 5 years of a living death. It has affected their health, both physically and mentally, as Bob has been completely obsessed with tracking down any possible communication avenue to get his son home."
Proctor added, "I personally intend to run as hard as I can in the opposite direction of judging his words in the moment of his crucible – I would HATE to have that standard applied to my moments of stress, which have never reached anything approaching his intensity and duration!"
Bergdahl grew up with parents and an older sister in Idaho. He and his sister were homeschooled.
Bergdahl was deployed to Afghanistan in February 2009, and was involved in the humanitarian aspect of the job, passing out food and medical supplies.