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Bergdahl Salutes on US Return Like 'Any Sergeant'

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl saluted sharply as he returned to the U.S. early Friday morning amid controversy over whether he deserted his unit in Afghanistan.

Maj. Gen. Joseph DeSalvo, commander of Army South, was the first to greet Bergdahl as he emerged from the Air Force plane that took him from the Ramstein Medical Center to Fort Sam Houston, Tex.

"We exchanged salutes," DeSalvo said at a news conference. "He appeared as any sergeant would when he sees a two-star general – a little nervous but okay, and he showed good deportment."

The arrival at about 1:40 a.m. was without ceremony. The plane pulled into a nearly deserted hangar where Bergdahl was met by DeSalvo and a few members of his staff and then escorted to a waiting vehicle.

Bergdahl was quickly taken to the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, where he will undergo re-integration into the Army and further medical and physical evaluation, said Col. Bradley Poppen, a base psychologist.

There was no timeline for his recovery, or for the beginning of the Army review of the circumstances surrounding his disappearance from his unit on June 30, 2009, that could possibly lead to court-martial charges, Poppen said.

His parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, were not present for their son's arrival home. They have not spoken to him since he was released on May 31 in a prisoner swap for five Taliban leaders who were being held at the Guantanamo Naval Base.

He apparently has not requested to speak with them.

"Bowe has requested that his privacy be maintained," Poppen said. "He is driving the process at this point."

Poppen said the first steps of re-integration will focus on "what's happened to him and what's happened in the world around him." He apparently has still not been exposed to any media on the swirling controversy over whether he betrayed his unit in Afghanistan and whether the U.S. paid too high a price for his return by releasing the five Taliban prisoners to the custody of the Gulf state of Qatar.

Shortly after his Bergdahl's release, Pentagon officials said that he initially was experiencing some minor dietary problems but DeSalvo said he was now listed in stable condition.

Col. Ron Wool, a member of the re-integration team, said Bergdahl was first put on a bland diet but now was being allowed to make some meal choices.

"Peanut butter is a favorite," Wool said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@monster.com

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