Michael Behenna may be out of Fort Leavenworth on parole but his fight is not over yet. He can still request clemency in the future. After serving five years in the military prison, Behenna opened up about the misunderstandings surrounding his conviction of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone.
"It's difficult to explain my situation to someone that's never been deployed before and I understand that," explained Michael Behenna.
He said there was no time to think when he pulled a trigger, killing a known al-Qaeda operative in Iraq. Behenna has maintained he acted in self-defense. He said he was field questioning Ali Mansur when Mansur came at him.
"He throws a piece of concrete and it hits right by my head and by the time I turned around to look, he stood up. He stood up like he's coming at me so I'm thinking he's going to take my weapon or and use it on me so I instinctively shoot and I shot twice," recalled Behenna.
That split-second reaction changed Behenna's life.
"You can do all the training in the world but you can't train for those real life situations."
Behenna was convicted of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone and was originally sentenced to serve 25 years behind bars. That sentenced was reduced to 15 years. He said that people have misunderstood the situation he and others found themselves. Behenna said that he may be labeled a war criminal but maintained he has never been a criminal in the sense many people assume.
"In prison you have guys that are career criminals, and guys that have robbed somebody, killed somebody, in the civilian world," explained Behenna. "Then you have those war criminals that were put in tough situations over in Iraq and Afghanistan that made split-second choices, decisions and they were prosecuted for it. Those guys are, they're war criminals just like, they're just like me. They're good people. People that if they were on the outside could function just fine."
There are seven others from the "Leavenworth 10," a group of military personnel convicted of war crimes still in prison. Behenna says he wants to raise awareness about them.