The Berdaghl family made its home in a remote, wind-whipped Idaho valley to keep the world at a certain distance. But two outside forces – the Taliban and US politics – crashed into the idyll.
It says a lot about Bob Bergdahl, 54, and the son he raised that of the two, he appears to have handled the Taliban better.
The former UPS delivery man has intrigued, inspired and infuriated the US public since the release of his son, Bowe, 28, ignited a political firestorm last week.
The ponytail and straggly beard, the phrases in Arabic and Pashto, the refusal to look or sound like a conventional dad, the theories about Bowe’s alleged desertion – all have fuelled the clamour, prompting many to ask: just who are the Bergdahls?
Interviews with friends, neighbours and colleagues in the valley and in Hailey, the nearest town, paint a nuanced portrait of a family that on one hand is sporty, Christian and all-American, fond of horses, hunting, chocolate muffins and Jimmy Fallon; and on the other bookish, private and iconoclastic, carving an individualistic trail in its own private Idaho. That lifestyle bred idealism – and, arguably, naivety.
“Bob almost reads and thinks too much,” said Lee Ann Ferris, a neighbour. “You’d ask him a question and, whoah, what an answer you’d get.”