HAILEY, Idaho - Hundreds of activists for missing service members gathered in a small Idaho town Saturday to hear the parents of the only known U.S. prisoner of war speak just days after his Taliban captors announced they want to exchange him for prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay.
Bob and Jani Bergdahl were already on a list of speakers at the "Bring Bowe Back" celebration in Hailey, Idaho, when the Taliban proposed the prisoner swap on Thursday.
Organizer Stefanie O'Neill said the parents of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, captured four years ago June 30, haven't wavered in their pledge to address those who gather, a group that included as many as 400 POW-MIA activists aboard motorcycles riding into town.
Buses also brought POW-MIA activists from as far as Elko, Nev.
Though yellow ribbons on Main Street trees and "Bring Bowe Home" placards in Hailey shop windows are a constant reminder of the 27-year-old Bergdahl's captivity, O'Neill said the Taliban offer has lent an addition element of urgency - and hope - to the event.
"We're not a community without Bowe," O'Neill said. "We're doing our best, but we need him back."
Bob Bergdahl plans to ride his son's dirt bike as part of the motorcycle procession that will travel north on Idaho State Highway 75 to Hailey's Hop Porter Park. That's where young four Norway maples have been planted overlooking the children's playground to commemorate each of the four years Bowe Bergdahl been held captive following his June 30, 2009 capture in Afghanistan.
He's believed held somewhere in Pakistan, but the Taliban said they would free him in exchange for five of their most senior operatives at Guantanamo Bay, the American installation on the southeastern tip of Cuba that's housed suspected terrorists following the Sept. 11 attacks.
The militant group's proposition came just days ahead of possible talks between a U.S. delegation and Taliban members in Qatar.
The discussions would be the first U.S.-Taliban talks in nearly 1 1/2 years, and the prospect that they could include discussions over Bergdahl have raised his family's spirits in Hailey, according to Donna Thibedeau-Eddy, a family friend.