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US Army: Soldier freed from Taliban going to restaurants, stores as part of 'reintegration'

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was a prisoner of war in Afghanistan for five years, has been allowed to venture off the Texas military base where he is receiving care as part of his "reintegration process" into society, a U.S. Army spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Bergdahl has been allowed to go, with supervision, to a grocery store, restaurants, shopping centers and a library as part of the process of getting him comfortable with being out in public, Army spokeswoman Arwen Consaul said.

Bergdahl, 28, has been receiving care at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio since returning to the United States on June 13. He initially was being treated at Brooke Army Medical Center at the fort but was shifted last week to outpatient care at the military base.

The Idaho native was freed by the Taliban May 31 in a deal struck by the Obama administration in which five senior Taliban officials were released from detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Bergdahl had disappeared from his post in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. Some former members of his unit have said that he left of his own accord.

He has not commented publicly on the circumstances of his disappearance, and the Army has made no charges against him. The Army has said it is investigating Bergdahl's disappearance and capture, but that investigators will not interview him until those helping him recover say it is all right to do so.

Bergdahl's "reintegration process" has slowly increased his exposure to social settings and groups of people, giving him "a little bit more every day," Consaul said.

It began with going to facilities at Fort Sam Houston, including the commissary and the gym. It has since progressed to going into San Antonio and visiting various businesses. On these visits, Bergdahl is accompanied by members of his reintegration team, including a psychologist.

The process is about "getting (Bergdahl) comfortable with being out in public and interacting with large groups of people," Consaul said.

It is unknown if Bergdahl's family has seen him since his return to the United States. Consaul said because of a request by Bergdahl's family for privacy, the Army cannot comment on this.

Other people who have been held in captivity and that the military base has worked with in the past have gone through similar interactions as part of their reintegration, Consaul said.

No time has been set for when Bergdahl's reintegration process will finish, she said.

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Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70

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