On March 20, 2009, Army Ranger 1st Lt. Michael Behenna was sentenced to 25 years in prison for killing a purported Al Qaeda operative while serving in Iraq.
Friday afternoon, after his lawyers and his family members pursued appeals, clemency and parole, after countless individuals sent Michael letters, put money in his prison account, contributed to his defense fund, wrote members of Congress, rode motorcycles in a rally of support or prayed for Michael, the Edmond soldier will be coming home.
Last month, Michael called family members to tell them he had been granted parole and he would be released March 14.
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” family members wrote in a post on DefendMichael.com. “Life is often not fair, and as we have seen, justice is sometimes hard to come by. For the innocent man who is sent to prison, life can seem especially cruel. To survive that requires strength that comes from deep inside. It also requires the love and support from family and close friends.”
Scott Behenna said Thursday family members will drive up to Leavenworth, Kan., where they will spend the night and prepare to receive Michael. Details were not extensive about the process.
“The military has not told us a lot about the release,” Behenna said.
Behenna said sometime Friday morning, Michael will be driven from the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks to the U.S. Penitentiary, located on another part of the post accessible to the general public. He said the emotional moment will likely be brief, including hugs and getting back into vehicles.
Depending on when Michael is released, the family expects to be back in Edmond sometime between 4-6 p.m. Friday.
Behenna said given the fact that Michael has been a leader of other men in the military and will be leaving inmates he has come to know and have concern about, the experience will likely be bittersweet for his son.
Regarding when his son would make an expected public statement to supporters, Behenna said it would probably come sometime during the next couple of weeks. Michael’s transition to civilian life will include tasks like getting his driver’s license.
Spiritual support for Michael and the Behenna family has come from many places including Peace Lutheran Church where Scott and Michael’s mother Vicki are longtime members.
Peace Lutheran Pastor Keith Falk said during recent years, members have prayed weekly for the Behenna family by name, held a prayer vigil and offered other various forms of support. Members prayed for God’s presence to be with them during their time of need and for God’s mercy and will to be done.
When news broke about Michael being granted parole, prayers were answered.
“We were really joyful, relieved for the whole Behenna family,” Falk said.
Falk said at some point in the future, members of the congregation would like to honor Michael with a special service of welcome and thanksgiving.
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