EDMOND, Okla. – For the first time in five years an Edmond soldier is home with his family.
“It’s been an emotional day,” said Michael Behenna.
The former 1st Lt. was convicted of murder back in 2009 for the shooting of an Iraqi man who was in his custody and reportedly had connections to Al Qaeda.
His family spent years lobbying to get him out of prison, and at 30-years-old, he’s out on parole.
He hugged his family as he got out of the car. His uncles, grandmothers, godson and other family members waited in the driveway.
“Of course I remember you,” he joked with one family member.
“It’s hard to describe, you know? I mean, I haven’t had time to really think today,” said Behenna. “Today’s just been overwhelming.”
He was locked in the Leavenworth military prison in Kansas, serving a 15 year sentences for the murder of Ali Mansur, an Iraqi civilian connected to Al Qaeda.
Prosecutors say Behenna shot the unarmed man while questioning him, but Behenna has always claimed self defense.
His family has stood by him through the years.
“My mom and dad coming up every other weekend to see me. It’s been about every other weekend them coming up to see me in prison, and I’m thankful for that,” said Behenna.
Now on parole, wardens released him into the arms of his mother and father.
“Hugging your son when he’s free is probably 180 degrees from when they handcuffed him and took him away,” said Behenna’s father, Scott Behenna.
His mother, Vicki Behenna, said her first words to her son, “Welcome home. Just welcome home.”
She says it was a conflicting moment for her son. “Last night, he spent his time saying goodbye to the other members of the Leavenworth,” said Vicki. “It’s very hard for him to leave them. Not that he doesn’t want to come home and start his life again, but you can imagine, a little bit of his heart is with those guys in Leavenworth.”
A five hour journey home after a five year detour in prison.
“A lot times when soldiers make decisions in a combat zone, they make decisions without thinking about it. They’re just reacting to what’s coming to them or coming at them,” said Vicki. “The past five years he spent a lot of time thinking about the loss the death of his soldiers, the death of Mansur, and I think he regrets, well as he said in his letter, I think he said I regret taking another human being’s life.”
She’s talking about the letter her son wrote to the parole board. Perhaps the letter that set him free and perhaps a letter he’ll look back on soon.
“I promise I’ll talk to you guys you guys,” said Behenna. “You can come back, and I’ll talk to you.”
For now, he just wants to spend time with his family.
Behenna’s family says they are going to teach him how to use an I phone and teach him how to text.
He told NewsChannel 4 he was gong to eat Mexican food tonight. One his way home, he said he stopped and ate barbecue.