HAILEY, Idaho — The Pentagon said Monday that troops are "sparing no effort" to find an American soldier captured by the Taliban as his family pleaded for privacy and residents in his hometown tied yellow ribbons on trees along Main Street in a show of solidarity.
The actions came two days after the Taliban released a video of Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl in captivity expressing his fear that he would never see or hug his family again. The footage showed Bergdahl with his head shaved, eating a meal and sitting cross-legged on what appeared to be a bunk.
"We've been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and concern towards Bowe and our family," the family said in a statement read by Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling. "As you know, the situation is extremely difficult for everyone involved. We'd like to remind all of you our sole focus is seeing our beloved son Bowe safely home."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates condemned the video Monday, saying he was disgusted by the exploitation of a prisoner. "Our commanders are sparing no effort to find this young soldier," Gates said at a Pentagon news conference.
Bergdahl, 23, grew up just outside Hailey, a central Idaho resort town where residents said he was home-schooled, danced ballet and rode his bike everywhere in town. They also called him adventurous and said he joined the Army at least in part because he wanted to learn more about the world. He had been stationed at Fort Richardson, Alaska.
Bergdahl's parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl, have refused requests to be interviewed, and the sheriff declined to answer personal questions about Bergdahl in a news conference that was televised nationally from this town of 7,000 people.
And few in town would speak openly about Bergdahl because of fears that any remarks might hurt the possibility of his safe return. The town learned about the capture in early July but kept quiet about the ordeal.
The circumstances of Bergdahl's capture on June 30 weren't clear.
On July 2, two U.S. officials told The Associated Press the soldier had "just walked off" his base with three Afghans after his shift. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.
On July 6, the Taliban claimed on their Web site that five days earlier "a drunken American soldier had come out of his garrison" and was captured by mujahedeen.
Details of such incidents are routinely held very tightly by the military as it works to retrieve a missing or captured soldier without giving away any information to captors.
Officials with U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., declined to give additional details of his capture.
President Barack Obama reacted to the news of the capture in an interview excerpt played on MSNBC Monday night.
"Our young men and women who are serving in the armed forces do an extraordinary job," he told NBC's "Today" program for a segment to be broadcast Tuesday. "They're put in harm's way each and every day, especially those deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. And so seeing something like this, it makes you think about their families, it makes you think about the young man. We are hopeful that it will have a good ending."
Bergdahl's family learned of his capture when a member of the Idaho National Guard came to their home in early July. Over the weekend of July 4, four service members who specialize in hostage events visited and told them what their son might be experiencing in captivity as well as what the military was doing to have him released.
Military officials in Afghanistan refused a request from the AP to interview fellow soldiers from Bergdahl's Army unit. Spokesman Navy Lt. Robert Carr in Kabul said the military was controlling the flow of information so nothing could be used against the other American forces or Bergdahl.
Not all family members of captured soldiers stay quiet about such situations.
Keith Maupin, whose son was captured in Iraq in 2004, was vocal during the four years his 20-year-old son Pfc. Matt Maupin was missing before his body was found.
"I know if they stay quiet, they're not going to get any information," Maupin told the AP from his home in Ohio. "They've got to stay on top of it."
Some say the discretion exhibited in Hailey fits with the region's history of respecting the privacy of part-time celebrity visitors and residents such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore
"It's just the way we are," said Hailey Chamber of Commerce Director Jim Spinelli.
Associated Press writer Terry Kinney in Cincinnati. Anne Gearan in Washington and Mary Pemberton in Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this story.