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WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced May 31 that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's Afghan captors have released him to the U.S. military after taking him prisoner nearly five years ago while he was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Bergdahl, at the time a private first class, went missing from his post in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. He was the only U.S. service member known to be held captive there.
The Soldier, now 28, was thought captured by the Haqqani network. He appeared in a proof-of-life video that surfaced last January and military officials said at the time they believed the video to be recently made.
"A few hours ago, the family of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was informed by President (Barack) Obama that their long wait for his return will soon be over," Hagel said in a May 31 statement.
"We will give him all the support he needs to help him recover from this ordeal," the secretary added, "and we are grateful that he will soon be reunited with his Family."
Also, Hagel said he informed Congress of the decision to transfer five detainees from Guantánamo Bay to Qatar.
"The United States has coordinated closely with Qatar to ensure that security measures are in place and the national security of the United States will not be compromised," Hagel said.
"I appreciate the efforts of the Emir of Qatar to put these measures in place and I want to thank him for his instrumental role in facilitating the return of Sgt. Bergdahl," the secretary said.
One of Hagel's first acts upon taking office in February 2013 was to call the Bergdahl Family about their son's situation, Pentagon press secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said during a January press conference.
In June 2011 the Army announced it had promoted Bergdahl to the rank of sergeant.
Bergdahl is assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Fort Richardson, now Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, in Alaska.
That was Bergdahl's second promotion since he was listed as missing-captured on June 30, 2009. He was promoted to the rank of specialist in June 2010.
"Sgt. Bergdahl's return is a powerful reminder of the enduring, sacred commitment our nation makes to all those who serve in uniform," Hagel said in his statement.
The U.S. government never forgot Sgt. Bergdahl, he added, and the Defense Department and other federal agencies never stopped working to bring him back.
"I am grateful to all the military and civilian professionals -? from DOD and our interagency partners - who helped make this moment possible, and to all those Americans who stood vigil with the Bergdahl Family," the secretary said.
Hagel issued the announcement while on a 12-day international trip to countries in Asia and Europe.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey also commented on Bergdahl's return today. The chairman said in a written statement, "It is our ethos that we never leave a fallen comrade. Today we have back in our ranks the only remaining captured Soldier from our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Welcome home, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl."