Phil Proctor, now the pastor of Sterling Presbyterian Church in Sterling, Va., said Friday that Bob and Jani Bergdahl have been crushed by allegations that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl deserted and by his being labeled a traitor - not to mention an outpouring of anger directed at their family and their Idaho town.
"They have been really hurt," Proctor said, noting that they are trying to stay out of the picture for now.
Proctor said the Bergdahls were surprised by interviews they have seen with former platoon mates of their son. Some of the soldiers have told media outlets that they didn't support the exchange of five Taliban militants for his freedom.
"This very much hit them as a shock and I'm not sure anybody's got the full story," said Proctor, who is urging prayer and compassion for the family.
Bob Bergdahl, who has a full beard and spoke briefly in Pashto during a White House news conference, has spent the past five years trying to identify with the culture of his son's captors, Proctor said.
His appearance has been derided by former military officials and conservative TV and radio figures.
"Well, the beard thing, and the Pashto, Bob felt from the get-go if there was going to be a diplomatic solution that it was kind of on him to do it," Proctor said. "He felt like as Bowe's father he could reach out and try to speak directly to various people, and he did so."
Proctor said he was the family's pastor in Idaho in 2003 and has remained close with them ever since. He said he spent time with them after their son was captured and they came to Washington to meet with officials.