By JOHN CAPELL and LEE FERRAN
The family of recently freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl today thanked “each and every Facebook supporter and friend” for their “prayers and kindness” during their son’s ordeal, “not only during the past 10 days but for the past 5 years,” according to a statement made today on the family’s behalf.
“It has meant the World to them [Bergdahl's parents],” reads the statement provided to ABC News by a family friend. “They apologize for not being able to return each phone call, text, message and email but please know they are very grateful for the love they are receiving from you.”
The note also asked that the family’s privacy be respected “as they continue on this new path with Bowe.”
More than a week ago Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was freed from Taliban captivity in a controversial deal between the U.S. and the Afghan militant group. In return, the U.S. released five mid- to high-level Taliban figures who had been detained in Guantanamo Bay for years.
Part of the controversy lay in the uncertain circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture by the Taliban nearly five years ago. Since the deal for his release became public, former soldiers familiar with Bergdahl’s case, including members of his old unit, have spoken out, accusing Bergdahl of simply “walking off,” away from an Afghan outpost in the middle of the war. That has never been the Pentagon’s official position, military officials said, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a Facebook post last week that “like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty.”
The Bergdahl family has received death threats, the FBI said, and the Fritz Haemmerle, the mayor of Bergdahl’s hometown in Idaho, said the city has seen a deluge of angry mail and phone calls, USA Today reported.
Bergdahl is currently in the initial stages of a re-integration process at a military medical facility in Germany. He has told doctors that he was tortured and kept in a cage while in captivity, according to a senior U.S. official, as first reported by The New York Times. The Taliban said Bergdahl was held under “good conditions.”
John Capell is a freelance producer contributing to ABC News.