- Image 1 of 3
- Image 2 of 3
- Image 3 of 3
While several of Bowe Bergdahl's former comrades describe him as a deserter who became disillusioned with the military mission in Afghanistan, his best friend and hometown roommate paints the picture of a kind-hearted, complicated man -- whose hobbies included ballet.
Sherry Horton, artistic director of Sun Valley Ballet in Idaho, told Fox News how she reacted when Bergdahl told her he'd joined the Army just days before leaving. "I was not surprised," Horton said, "just because of his beliefs, his upbringing -- so many things about him. He was all about protecting the rights of the U.S. and citizens and being a person who took charge."
Born in Idaho in 1986, Bowe and his sister were educated at home by their parents Bob and Jani, who raised their children as strict Calvinists, studying religious thinkers and philosophers at their home on 40 acres in Hailey, Idaho. At the age of 16, he started taking ballet lessons at a local studio, where he was introduced to Buddhism and meditation.
"He was always trying to expand and learn about different cultures and all sorts of different things," Horton said. He liked exploring other cultures so much he even managed to learn some Russian from one of the ballet instructors at the school.
Officials familiar with the investigation into Bergdahl's disappearance from a remote Army outpost in 2009 say he was alone and unarmed when he "willfully walked off base," a violation of the rules. Other questions have been raised about writings in which he apparently expressed disillusionment with the mission.
Friends like Horton say Bergdahl was not a pacifist. He liked to shoot guns and, after failing to join the French Foreign Legion as a mercenary, joined the U.S. Army to learn about other cultures.
"It's a time of war -- people change. Could it have happened? I don't know," Horton said of the claims of desertion. "I don't think so, but not having spoken to him, nobody knows for a fact what is happening.
"Everyone is being a little pre-judgmental. I think everyone needs to take a deep breath and take a step back and let him get healthy. Then let's have a conversation and figure out exactly what did happen and then we can start the debates."
Fellow soldiers have been harshly critical of Bergdahl since the administration announced over the weekend he was released, in exchange for five Taliban leaders previously held at Guantanamo. One soldier who served in a platoon alongside Bergdahl told Fox News on Monday there were "telltale signs" he deserted before he was captured.
Army Secretary John McHugh said in a statement Tuesday that the Army would launch a fresh review of the circumstances surrounding his disappearance. Earlier Tuesday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said the military would not overlook any wrongdoing.
Bowe's father, Bob, told the Guardian newspaper in an interview before he was released that Bowe's goodwill led him to serve. "He was not there for national security," Bob said. "He was not there because he lost a personal friend on 9/11. He was there because the way he was raised forced him to have compassion."
Despite being one of the "best-mannered" men she knew, Horton admitted Bowe had a tendency to become overwhelmed. "There were lots of times here when things would get a little crazy and all he wanted to do is walk into the forest or up into the hills and sit down and meditate for an hour," Horton said. "I'm not sure that's what he was doing then."
Fox News' Dan Springer contributed to this report.