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Michael Behenna merits a little mercy, compassion

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: May 12, 2013

FOR every Hallmark moment on Mother's Day, there is a heartbreak moment.

A child lamenting the recent loss of a mom. A mom mourning the long-ago loss of a child.

Mothers gather with their children on the second Sunday of May. They break bread in a restaurant or around the family table. If they can.

Vicki Behenna cannot.

She won't be at the family table with her son Michael. Mother's Day in the Behenna household is a heartbreak moment because Michael is in a military prison while Vicki is fighting for his freedom.

The Oklahoman's Jenni Carlson tells the Behenna family's story in Sunday's newspaper. It's the tale of a high school senior who was so moved by the events of Sept. 11, 2001 that he insisted on being a soldier. On that day, when so many mothers died and so many mothers lost a child, Michael Behenna's determination to serve his country began — as did his mother's concerns for his safety.

Prison term an outrage

Wars produce heroes but also make widows and leave children without a mother and mothers without a child. This was the fear Vicki had when Michael got his U.S. Army officer's commission in 2006, a fear that accelerated when he shipped out to Iraq.

Michael made it home from the combat zone, but he can't be at home in Edmond today. And this may not be the last second Sunday in May that finds Behenna behind bars. Given the set of circumstances that led to his imprisonment, this is an outrage.

Behenna has spent the past four years at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for unpremeditated murder in a combat zone. He has 11 years remaining on his sentence, a sentence wrapped in political correctness at the time it was meted out, following a trial that saw a key witness left on the sideline.

Michael Behenna has come close but ultimately been unsuccessful in getting his conviction overturned. His family is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case. If that fails — the high court accepts very few appeals each year — Behenna must return to the Army's pardon and parole board once a year to seek clemency.

In 2008, Behenna shot and killed Ali Mansur, an Iraqi who was part of a terrorist cell operating in an area where an attack had killed two of Behenna's men. Mansur was held for a time and then released. Behenna was ordered to return him to his village. Instead, he interrogated this enemy combatant one more time, forcing him to strip and questioning him at gunpoint.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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