By Amanda Metzger
“A nation is judged by how well it treats its veterans,” said President and General George Washington
Based on that adage, the Savage Nation will be judged favorably.
There have been several cases where Michael Savage has rallied his millions of listeners to the defense of brave members of our armed forces who have been attacked by a justice system they would have died to protect.
On May 6, 2019, one of those cases, First Lt. Michael Behenna, a U.S. Army Ranger, finally found some form of justice — albeit warped after years of imprisonment by his own nation — when President Donald Trump pardoned him.
For his willingness to sacrifice his life for his country, Behenna was repaid with scorn and prosecution. His family was saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal debt, but through it all Savage relentlessly pursued the truth and helped them publicize their story, resulting in a $100,000 donated toward Behenna’s defense.
The story of Lt. Behenna’s nightmare of injustice begins a little more than 11 years ago. The soldier from Oklahoma was only 24 years old in April 2008 during a deployment in Iraq. Behenna’s platoon was viciously attacked, leaving the platoon sergeant, company medic and two Iraqi citizens traveling with them seriously injured. Worse, two soldiers were killed in this hit, forced to give the ultimate sacrifice.
Military intelligence tied the bloody attack to an Al Qaeda cell and a man named Ali Mansur who was detained on May 5, 2008. To Behenna, that was it. It seemed they got the guy.
However, 11 days later Mansur the monster was ordered to be released. For heightened humiliation, Behenna was told to transport him home to walk free.
It’s a bizarre story that Savage said smacked of a vendetta — possibly from military brass too far from the front lines to find their own jackets stained with blood.
Like a real-life version of Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22,” logic and common sense were lost.
His mother, Vicki Behenna, told her son’s story on the air in an interview with Savage.
Feeling a duty to protect himself and his soldiers, Behenna decided to interrogate Mansur. With his service weapon drawn, he began to question the man military intelligence had pointed to in the murder of two his brothers in arms. Mansur was seated on a rock during the interrogation. In a split-second Behenna looked away from Mansur and turned his head to his translator after one of Mansur’s answers. He heard a rock or a piece of concrete hit the side of the culvert where they were and suddenly Mansur was standing with his arm outstretched toward Behenna’s service weapon. As he told a jury, he fired to protect himself.
But Behenna found himself charged with premediated murder of Mansur, the penalty for which was life imprisonment.
His mother said her son was confident the truth would prevail through his trial. His parents knew how the justice system worked — his mother a U.S. attorney and his father an FBI analyst.
But the prosecution’s own expert witness wasn’t allowed to testify because his analysis supported Behenna’s story. He was tried, convicted of “unpremeditated murder in a combat zone,” and sentenced to 25 years. He received clemency twice while in prison and his sentence was downgraded to 15 years in Fort Leavenworth.
In military justice, he would have to serve a 1/3 of his term before he was eligible for parole. The family continued to fight and took the case to a military appellate court.
Behenna’s mother’s voice shook as she spoke to Savage on the airwaves years ago.
“Probably close to $200,000,” she said softly as she revealed how much the family had spent in legal fees.
To show his support and rally listeners, Savage agreed then and there to make a donation of $25,000 out of his own pocket.
“I want to make the people who listen to this show understand how important it is that they reach into their pockets. Before they give a nickel to Haiti they need to give a dollar to your son’s defense because if we don’t support our heroes, then all the tragedies on earth won’t add up to a hill of beans as far as I’m concerned,” Savage said.
In 2010, Savage donated $50,000 to Behenna’s defense fund from his own Savage Legal Defense Fund.
“I want you to understand that we do make a difference here on The Savage Nation. This is not just a show,” Savage said in 2010. “Even if you haven’t sent him any money, even if you only e-mailed him or wrote him a letter, it’s giving him the hope that one day he will be freed.”
Listeners in the Savage Nation contributed even more, adding approximately $40,000 in donations, his mother Vicki confirmed in 2010.
Behenna was released on parole in 2014. Savage interviewed him and gave him a platform to tell his story to the world. To that day, Behenna does not know why the monster was ordered released and why he was ordered to transport him home.
Though he was finally released, he had to start life over again. Savage rallied his listeners again to give back to Behenna and help him buy a car.
“You’ve already done so much. You and your listeners. You’ve raised over $100,000 for my defense,” Behenna told Savage. He said he just wanted a life on a ranch and a car that ran — nothing fancy.
“What you’ve done for this country, no one can even calculate what you’ve done for this country,” Savage told Behenna on the air.
Unfortunately Behenna told Savage that he wasn’t the only one serving an unjust sentence in Fort Leavenworth.
Behenna may have been left behind by a mangled justice system but he would not face this evil alone. He had an intrepid member of the media who was a lone voice on this cause as he is and has been on many others. Though Savage was not joined by others in the media, the echo of his words resonated in the hearts of his broad listenership who would not sit silent and watch a soldier and his family suffer.
After receiving his full pardon, Behenna’s statement thanked Trump “for his act of mercy” and called on us to remember the names of the two soldiers who died at the hands of terrorists in April of 2008.
“Although this is a time of great joy for my family, we as a country must never forget Adam Kohlhaas and Steven Christofferson and all those who gave their lives in service of this great nation,” Behenna said. “They represent the finest of our society, and their families will forever be in our thoughts and prayers.”
The Savage Nation will solemnly heed Behenna’s plea that we never forget.
“Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor also to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.” — Abraham Lincoln