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A grateful Bowe Bergdahl 'understands that his life has been saved,' lawyer says

By Jason Hanna, CNN
updated 1:02 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is "grateful to President Obama," his lawyer says
  • The Army is investigating the circumstances of his 2009 capture in Afghanistan
  • Bergdahl was released after a U.S. deal with the Taliban in May
  • The sergeant is back to work at the headquarters of a unit based in San Antonio

(CNN) -- Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is aware of the controversy over the deal his country made with the Taliban to secure his release, and he's thankful that his commander in chief acted to save his life, his attorney said Wednesday.

"Sgt. Bergdahl has had a close brush with death over a prolonged period of time. He understands that his life has been saved. He's grateful to President Obama for doing that," Bergdahl's attorney, Eugene Fidell, told CNN's "New Day."

Bergdahl, released by the Taliban six weeks ago, recently retained Fidell amid the Army's investigation into the circumstances of his disappearance and capture in Afghanistan in June 2009.

The Army has said he has yet to be interviewed by the officer investigating his case, and he returned to regular duty at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, on Monday following weeks of counseling and medical care.

Bergdahl returning to active duty

The 28-year-old soldier spent five years in the hands of militants after he disappeared. He was released in late May in exchange for five senior Taliban members held by the U.S. military.

Fidell said Bergdahl has "gone through an extraordinary ordeal" and "lost five years in the most unspeakable way."

"The mind boggles when thinking about spending five years in the hands of the Taliban," Fidell said. "Imagine your worst nightmare. That's all I can say on that.

"Obviously the hope is that he can return to a normal life, and ... reintegrate properly within American society as well as the Army, and sort of get on with his life."

Fidell said he couldn't say much more about his conversations with Bergdahl, citing attorney-client privilege.

Bergdahl venturing off base, rubbing elbows with public

The news of Bergdahl's freedom initially was met with jubilation, which quickly changed as many called for an investigation into his disappearance and captivity. Some critics accused the soldier of deserting his comrades in war.

An Army fact-finding investigation conducted in the months after Bergdahl disappeared concluded that he left his outpost deliberately and of his own free will, according to an official who was briefed on the report.

The Army has no definitive finding that Bergdahl deserted because that would require knowing his intent -- something officials couldn't learn without talking to the soldier, a U.S. military official told CNN.

Fidell declined to answer CNN's question about Bergdahl's intent.

Bergdahl back at work

Bergdahl spent his first day of regular duty working at the headquarters of U.S. Army North in Texas on Monday, the Army said.

Like many soldiers at a new assignment, he spent much of his day getting paperwork straightened out, Army spokesman Don Manuszewski said.

He began his job with a unit responsible for homeland defense, civil support operations and security cooperation programs involving countries such as Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas. He will eventually be given a position commensurate with his rank of sergeant. The army spokesman has said that Bergdahl would be assigned a desk job.

Bergdahl lives on base, in a two-bedroom unit in noncommissioned officers' quarters.

"He's just another soldier in the U.S. Army," Manuszewski said.

Two soldiers are helping him adjust to life at Fort Sam Houston.

Bergdahl was a private first class when he was captured, and the Army extended his enlistment and twice promoted him on schedule while he was in captivity.

Manuszewski wouldn't say how much longer Bergdahl's enlistment would last, and he didn't comment on the investigation.

Army general to start investigating how, why Bergdahl left base

CNN's Martin Savidge and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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