"It would be no more appropriate to have our government turn their backs on their citizens than to turn their backs on those who serve," Patrick Boyle, a Canadian judge and the father of Joshua Boyle, said in a telephone interview.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf declined Wednesday to discuss specifics of the case because of privacy considerations.
Republicans in Congress have criticized the Bergdahl agreement and complained about not being consulted, though Obama has defended it, citing a "sacred" obligation to not leave men and women in uniform behind. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., asked Obama in a letter this week why other Americans still in the custody of Afghan militants were not included in the negotiation. The families say their children, though without political or military ties to the government, are prisoners just as Bergdahl was and should be recognized as "innocent tourists" and not penalized further for venturing into dangerous territory.
"They really and truly believed that if people were loved and treated with respect that that would be given back to them in kind," said Linda Boyle, Boyle's mother. "So as odd it as it may seem to us that they were there, they truly believed with all their heart that if they treated people properly, they would be treated properly."
Relatives describe the couple, who wed in 2011 after meeting online, as well-intentioned but naive adventure seekers.
They once spent months traveling through Latin America, where they lived among indigenous Guatemalans and where Boyle grew a long beard that led some children to call him "Santa Claus." The couple set off again in the summer of 2012 for a journey that took them to Russia, the central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then to Afghanistan.
With plans to return home in December ahead of Coleman's due date, they checked in regularly via email during their travels — expressing in their writings an awareness of the perils they faced.