The parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, speaking to reporters in Idaho on Sunday, praised their son's resilience and asked for time for him to adjust to his freedom.
"The recovery and reintegration of Bowe Bergdahl is a work in progress," his father said.
Bob and Jani Bergdahl, who fought hard for their son's release, thanked everyone who helped. They said they had not yet spoken to their son.
"Bowe has been gone so long that it's going to be very difficult to come back," his father said.
Bergdahl, the only American solider held prisoner in Afghanistan, was freed on Saturday after nearly five years in captivity. He is now at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where his condition is being evaluated.
As the Bergdahls spoke in Boise, their hometown of Hailey, Idaho, was getting ready for a welcome-home celebration. The town of 7,000 residents had taped up signs that read, "Bowe is free at last!"
The Taliban turned over Bergdahl in exchange for the release of five Afghan detainees from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The transfers happened after a week of intense negotiations mediated by the government of Qatar, which agreed to take custody of the Afghans.
Addressing her son directly, Jani Bergdahl urged him to give himself time to recover and decompress. There was no hurry, she told him.
"Five years is a seemingly, endless long time, but you have made it," she said. "I imagine you are more patient and compassionate than ever. You are free."
Bob Bergdahl told his son that he was proud of his patience and perseverance, his ability to adapt culturally, his language skills and his willingness to serve his country.
"But most of all, I'm proud of how much you wanted to help the Afghan people and what you were willing to do to go to that length," Bob Bergdahl said, choking up as his spoke. "I'll say it again: I'm so proud of how far you were willing to go to help the Afghan people. And I think you have succeeded.
He did not explain what he meant by his comments.
Emails that Bergdahl reportedly sent to his parents before he was captured by the Taliban suggest that he was disillusioned and considering deserting.
Bowe Bergdahl told his parents he was "ashamed to even be American" and was disgusted with the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and with the Army, according to emails quoted in Rolling Stone magazine two years ago.
The Rolling Stone article also quoted other soldiers saying that Bergdahl had talked about walking to Pakistan if his deployment was "lame" and that shortly before his disappearance he had asked whether he should take his weapon if he left the base. Bob Bergdahl told the magazine that his son was "living in a novel."
"The future is too good to waste on lies," one email reads. "And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong."