EDITOR’S NOTE: On July 31, 2008, Army Ranger 1st Lt. Michael Behenna was charged with the premeditated murder of Ali Mansur, a known Al-Qaeda agent operating near Albu Toma, an area north of Baghdad. Seven months later, the leader of the 18-member Delta Company, 5th platoon of the Army 101st Airborne Infantry Division was convicted of unpremeditated murder and sentenced to 25 years confinement at Fort Leavenworth. Though his sentence has been reduced to 15 years, Behenna remains behind bars for a killing that should have been deemed self-defense. Today, I share the latest update from Michael’s parents, Scott and Vicki Behenna:
1st Lt. Michael Behenna
To the thousands of Michael Behenna supporters,
On March 20th it will have been two years since Michael’s freedom was taken away from him. Shortly after that horrific day he was publicly paraded through three airports en route to Ft. Leavenworth to begin serving a 25 year sentence for killing a known al-Qaida terrorist. When Michael first went to prison he was bitter for the incredible injustice that had been done to him by a country he put his life on the line for. But that bitterness was soon replaced by an attitude of inner peace and a desire to discover himself.
Today Michael works 5 days a week in exterior grounds maintenance, lifts weights in the prison gym, reads his numerous cards and letters, and has immersed himself in books sent to him or that he checks out from the prison library. He is treated well at Leavenworth because many of the MP’s know that his situation is vastly different than most incarcerated there. However, it is still a prison with the associated hardships of “groundhog day” monotony, violent flair-ups of inmates, strip searches, full prison lockdowns, and the predictable food menu every week. He lives in his own cell and he finds solace among the other Leavenworth 10 soldiers who have been convicted of similar war crimes. They have been a Godsend for one another as they have a common bond and each are remarkable individuals and soldiers who have been entangled in a bizarre legal quagmire for unknown political purposes. Your generous contributions to Michael’s canteen account enable him to call home regularly and we are lucky enough to live a few hours away from Leavenworth so that either family or friends can visit him almost every weekend.
Michael recently wrote a letter about what he has learned while he has been in prison. We wanted to share it with you now:
Since arriving in prison I have begun a journey of continuous refining of both my thought and my action; the way I relate to others, an appreciation for life, and self-understanding. As Emerson once wrote ‘What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us’ and I am finding that what lies within us knows no limits.
I have no access to the outside world except through newspapers and magazines and phone calls and weekend visits with my family. Yet I am not confined to my cell so long as I have books that take me to places I have never been. Books have become my avenue to knowledge and it is through them that I have met some magnificent people whose lives have inspired me to not only continue my fight for freedom, but to find freedom behind these bars.
Solitude was necessary for me to know myself. Once I began to truly know myself I began the journey of transformation. I have a notebook where I write down anything that I find meaningful in the books and letters I read. I have learned that it is not how much one knows, but what one does with what one knows.
There is a story of an old Cherokee who told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside of every person – it is a battle between two wolves. One wolf is life-taking: it is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, guilt, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, inferiority, lies, and ego. The other wolf is life-giving: it is joy, peace, love, hope serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather which wolf won. The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed’. I am working on only feeding the wolf who gives life.
One of the most inspiring books I’ve received is called ‘Gives Me Hope’. It is filled with true stories of kindness and generosity and I highly recommend it. When I first came to prison I had very little hope and a whole lot of bitterness. That is no longer the case. To all those who have supported me through this struggle I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that YOU GAVE ME HOPE! And still do…
As you can see, Michael’s attitude through this ordeal remains unbelievably good. His greatest fear going to prison was that he would be forgotten. Quite to the contrary (and to the dismay of the Army) Michael’s case is getting more attention than ever and there are things in the works that are going to put it in the spotlight even more so. Every week we hear from someone who tells us they knew nothing about Michael’s case until they saw a DefendMichael.com wristband or bumper sticker. It is a grass roots effort that keeps getting bigger and bigger.
The status of Michael’s appeals currently sits with the Army Court of Appeals. They should make a decision on the many legal issues of Michael’s case sometime later this year.
Keep spreading the word about Michael’s case and continue writing letters to your representatives. And please keep sending Michael cards and letters that ‘Give Him Hope’. That is a gift that we will be forever indebted to you for.
Proud Parents of 1LT Michael Behenna
Scott and Vicki Behenna
To read nearly four-dozen other posts about Michael, click here.
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