Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is returning home after five years in Taliban captivity. His release has sparked controversy, with some of his fellow soldiers and others claiming Bergdahl was a deserter from the U.S. military and lawmakers decrying the deal that led to his release.
The following timeline of Bergdahl's life, including the events leading up to him joining the military and his capture by the Taliban, offer insight into the man who became America's last POW.
March 28, 1986: Bowe Bergdahl is born in Sun Valley, Idaho to Robert and Jani Bergdahl.
According to a 2012 New York Times report, by the time Bergdahl was in his early 20s, he had his high school equivalency diploma and was moving from job to job to save up for exotic wanderings.
Friends describe him as quiet, thoughtful, well-read and athletic, a free spirit who thought nothing of riding his bicycle back and forth the dozen miles between Hailey, Idaho and Ketchum, Idaho.
He did construction and yard work, was a house sitter and worked at a local shooting club. Through connections there he became a crew member on a large sailboat, which led to other crew jobs, including one through the Panama Canal. He traveled in Europe and rode his bicycle to California.
He also worked on and off as a barista at Zaney’s, a coffee house and local gathering spot in Hailey.
Around the same time he switched from fencing and martial arts to classes at the Sun Valley Ballet School, where he is remembered as a strong dancer who easily lifted the school’s ballerinas. Bergdahl was pulled in by ballet’s discipline and grace, said Sherry Horton, the artistic director of the school, but it was a move that prompted teasing from the Zaney’s staff.
2008: Bergdahl enlists in the Army and undergoes 16 weeks of infantry school training in Fort Benning, Georgia.
March 2009: Bergdahl's platoon arrives in Paktika, Afghanistan.
June 30, 2009: Then-Pfc. Bergdahl is captured on June 30, 2009, by militants after leaving his U.S. base in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan.
July 1, 2009: Bergdahl is declared Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown (DUSTWUN) on July 1, 2009 and his status was changed to "Missing-Captured" on July 3, 2009.
July 18, 2009: The Taliban releases an Internet video featuring Bergdahl, who says he was captured after lagging behind during a patrol.
Dec. 25, 2009: Taliban releases video showing Bergdahl wearing sunglasses and a U.S. military-style uniform, including a military helmet.
April 7, 2010: The Taliban posts a video featuring Bergdahl.
In the video, Bergdahl is shown pleading to be sent home and saying the war in Afghanistan is not worth the violence and cost to lives.
June 12, 2010: Bergdahl is promoted to specialist by the United States Army.
June 12, 2011: Bergdahl is promoted to sergeant by the United States Army.
May 10, 2012: Bergdahl’s parents give an exclusive interview with the New York Times.
The soldier's parents make public the fact that he is a focus of secret negotiations between the Obama administration and the Taliban over a proposed prisoner exchange.
June 6, 2013: Bergdahls receive a letter from their son.
Bergdahl’s family announces that “through the International Committee of the Red Cross, we recently received a letter we’re confident was written to us by our son.”
January 15, 2014: U.S. officials receive new video of Bergdahl.
The officials said they believed the video was taken in the past month, indicating that Bergdahl was alive. The video shows a frail, shaky Bergdahl making a reference to the recent death of South African leader Nelson Mandela.
May 31, 2014: Bowe Bergdahl is released by the Taliban.
Bergdahl is freed in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
President Obama also gives statement in the White House Rose Garden, where he says the U.S.’ “top priority is making sure that Bowe gets the care and support that he needs and that he can be reunited with his family as soon as possible.”
June 1, 2014: Bergdahl’s parents give a press conference.
They thanked Americans for their support and added that their son faces a long recovery.
Administration officials also defend the decision to release Bergdahl in exchange for the Taliban detainees.
"We didn't negotiate with terrorists," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said, dismissing the suggestion that this swap could provide an incentive for future kidnappings of American soldiers. "In war, things are always dangerous and there are vulnerabilities... but our record, the United States of America, in dealing with terrorists and hunting down and finding terrorists, is pretty good."
"Sergeant Bergdahl wasn't simply a hostage, he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield," National Security Advisor Susan Rice added. "Regardless of who may be holding an American prisoner of war, we must do our best to bring him or her back."
June 2, 2014: Controversy and questions continue to grow over Bergdahl’s past behavior and whether he was a “deserter."
Cody Full and Gerald Sutton, men who served in Bergdahl's platoon, speak out in an interview with Megyn Kelly, saying there is no question Bergdahl deserted.
They describe Bergdahl as an unequivocal deserter whose actions led to the deaths of other soldiers. Full said he heard Bergdahl “talking about the terrain extensively” and talking to the Afghan national police with a clear “agenda” in mind.
“He did not serve the United States with honor. We all took an oath. He violated his oath when he deserted us and put other Americans in jeopardy,” Full said.
Sutton said that he doesn’t want to see someone like Bergdahl “hailed as a hero” when he should be court-martialed. Kelly pointed out how President Obama emphasized the importance of leaving no one behind. Full agreed with that sentiment, but said Bergdahl needs to be held accountable for his actions anyway.
June 3, 2014: President Obama defends the decision to release detainees for Bergdahl in a press conference in Poland.
"Regardless of circumstances ... we still get an American prisoner back," Obama said. "Period, full stop -- we don't condition that.