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“Leavenworth 10” families tell their stories

By   /   September 5, 2010  /   5 Comments

Leavenworth. Family members, former members of the military, and supporters spoke at the “Leavenworth 10” Freedom Rally to raise public awareness about what is happening to some American soldiers at the Ft. Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks.

The 10 American soldiers known as the “Leavenworth 10” have been incarcerated — some in solitary confinement — for actions they took while trying to survive a combat zone.

Earlier a Freedom Ride was held as a public display of support for the Leavenworth 10.  The Freedom Ride passed the entrance to Ft. Leavenworth.

Hundreds attended the event in Kansas on Saturday from all parts of the U.S. including Florida, Oklahoma, Michigan, New Mexico, New York and South Carolina.

While the focus of this rally was on 10 soldiers, there may be as many as 97 incarcerated at Ft. Leavenworth for similar charges according to author Elizabeth Kilbride.

Watch videos of the speeches below, or read selected excerpts:

Introductory Remarks by Joyce Kaufman and Larry Mendte

Joyce Kaufman, WFTL radio, Ft. Lauderdale, FL (MC for event):

“This is the beginning of a battle that we are going to win. When I hear this beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner the only thought that comes to my mind is if this is the land of the free, the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Leavenworth should not be the home of the brave.”

“Today we have an opportunity to listen to the other heroes, the family members who stand by, who don’t understand why what happened happened, but nonetheless remain faithful to the United States of America. It’s time for you to hear their stories.”

Larry Mendte, WPIX news anchor, New York City:

“You are blowing in the wind unless you get some media coverage for this. … For the life of me I can’t understand why the national news outlets have not picked this up.”

“Coming from New York City I do have an unusual, unique perspective on this whole thing. On the day the Towers came down, and on the day the Pentagon and a field in Western Pennsylvania were ablaze, a call went out across the country for the strong and the brave to go out and get monsters where they live — the ones that dared to bring that evil to our shore.

And tens of thousands responded. They did a thankless and treacherous job. …. They killed monsters. Some of them got medals. Some are fighting still. Some are home with their families. And 10 were sent to Leavenworth for murder. Murder? In war? …”

“Those men in Leavenworth, and the men that responded to the call after the Towers came down, did so to fight for your freedom. It is your responsibility now to fight for their freedom. Free the Leavenworth 10.”


“Leavenworth 10” Families

Evan Vela’s Family

Introduction by Joyce Kaufman:

“He volunteered for the Army in 2004; completed airborne, expert infantry and ranger training.  He’s an American patriot.  He’s a hero.  He dedicated himself to his Army career, and he walked into harm’s way for the defense of the United States.  He told his father that he would gladly complete his contract with the Army, once we win his appeal.  These are the kind of men who we’ve locked up.  He is truly a man of great honor and character.”

Alyssa Carnahan Vela, wife of Evan Vela:

“He wrote a letter for all of you …”

Hello Everyone,

… your support means more to me than anything else, for it is that support that continually gives me hope.

It is your support and freedoms that we fought for, and I would gladly do it again and again.

It does my heart wonders each and every time I receive a letter or card from someone around the country, who is simply telling me to keep my spirits up; that better times are just beyond the horizon.  …


Evan Vela


Michael Behenna’s Family

Introduction by Joyce Kaufman:

“For me this is going to be the hardest one to get through. I took this very personally. I turned it into somewhat of a mission in South Florida, and tried to make people at least aware. We’ve got the wrist bands on hundreds of people down there, and we were able to convince people that this was an important cause.”

“When I first heard the story of Lt. Michael Behenna, it was like deja vu all over again. One of the speakers that you’ll be hearing (Lt. Col Allen B. West) later on in this program is the man that first brought to my attention that we prosecute the military for doing their job.”

Vicki Behenna, Oklahoma City, Mother of Michael Behenna:

“They were told by their forensic expert that Michael’s version of what happened fit the forensic facts perfectly. But they didn’t put that expert on and they sent that expert home, Dr. McDonald. The only reason we even have a prayer for Michael’s appeal is Dr. McDonald was such a man of integrity that he wrote an E-mail after Michael’s conviction, and telling the prosecutors that you should have provided this information to the defense counsel.”

“We’re on appeal right now. … We’re praying that we’ll have an oral argument the middle of October of this year. We’re praying for a decision by Christmas.”

“You all serve such an important role for all of these guys.”

“When Michael first got to Leavenworth that was the first time I learned that we had imprisoned soldiers and marines.  And he asked me and this family to help the other Leavenworth 10.”

“I’m sending that mission onto you all. We cannot do this alone. We have got to have your help. We have got to have your voice. Please, please be the voice of these soldiers and marines until every one of them has rejoined their family.”

Shannon, long-time girlfriend of Michael Behenna:

“It’s our five year anniversary this month. I’ve known him since the second grade … the guy that I love, and I’m head over heels for. I’m so thankful that all of you showed up today and I really appreciate that. Thank you.”


Bill Hunsaker’s Family

Introduction by Joyce Kaufman:

“This is an emotional day.  As I look out here my vision is that this entire football field would be filled with people who are outraged.  The only reason they’re not here is because they don’t know.  That’s why each one of us has to leave here and make it a personal mission that you’ll tell everybody.  As a radio host I can tell you the value of you spreading these stories through these radio programs … “

“We’ve given this information to Fox.  We’ve given this information to CNN.  We’ve given it to all the alphabet soup networks and they’ve been unresponsive because they’re intimidated  …  We’ve got to spread this message.”

Fran Thexton, mom of Bill Hunsaker:

From a writing by sister, Mary:  “What does it take to be a hero?  When you look at a soldier’s uniform what do you see?  Ribbons, medals, rank.  I see honor, integrity, patriotism, but most of all I see sacrifice, lost relationships, lost time with family, lost freedoms, lost life …”

Another sister quoted her brother: “He chose the lesser evil, for the greater good.”

Thexton added:  “The conviction rate for the military justice system is 98%.  That should put up some big red flags.  Leadership has not taken accountability … “

Quoting her son:  “All he asks: … What about the guys that our country has given more rights to our enemy.  Those he said that have cut their heads off, and mutilated them — he says, those were my brothers.  Why are they getting treated better than me?


Corey Clagett’s Family

Introduction by Joyce Kaufman:

“Corey Clagett is “by far the youngest and most junior of the Leavenworth 10.  …”

“His trial was one of the most gross miscarriages of justice — his attorney abandoning him on the eve of the trial.  The worst part of all is that he’s been held in solitary confinement for four years. … He’s got a new attorney, and he’s fighting for his freedom. … He’s currently appealing to the Secretary of the Army.”

Tim Parlatore, New York City, Attorney for Corey Clagett:

“Corey was a squad member of Bill Hunsaker …  When he was arrested he was put into a prison in Kuwait where he was terribly mistreated.   He was kept awake.  They had 24-hour bright lights.   They made him sleep chained in the fetal position.  They withheld food from him for days.  This was before even he was convicted.”

“Since that time, the past four years he’s been in solitary confinement over at Ft. Leavenworth.  When I went to see him yesterday, they brought him out.  His feet chained together.  His arms chained to his side.  All he did was he followed an order.  …”

“Why is the army willing to keep him in jail and not willing to say why?”

Melanie Dianiska, Charleston, SC, Mother of Corey Clagett, told about saying goodbye to her son when he joined the army.

“When I waved goodbye to my son in the car, I never imagined in a million years that my son could have come home in this way.  He could have come home in a coffin and be presented with an award, and given me a flag, and been called a hero.  Well, he is a hero, and he is alive.  He bleeds like you and I.  He fought for us.  Please fight for him.”

Joseph Clagett, Brother of Corey Clagett:

“Regardless of what he did, he’s still a hero to me.  He was just following orders.  He’s been locked up for 51 months in solitary confinement.  …  I haven’t seen my brother in 1500 days.”



Michael Leahy’s Family

Introduction by Joyce Kaufman:

“Michael Leahy joined the Army in May 2003.  After graduating basic training in the top 10% of his class, … Michael went on to medic training.”

“… During those deployments he earned multiple Army commendation medals, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart.”

“Sgt. Leahy is not eligible for another clemency hearing until 2011 because of the length of his sentence.  Again, total miscarriage of justice.”

Debbie Leahy, mom of Michael Leahy:

“He grew up with a lot of determination…  He did well in school.  … He made honor roll.  He made the dean’s list.”

“He was at Illinois State with 9/11 took place.  He wanted to do something for his country, so he joined.  … When he joined the Army, he became a man. … He did well.  He became a medic. … I want my son home.”

“I’m proud to be an American and I know he is.”

Jamie Leahy, wife of Michael Leahy:

“He took care of everybody out there.  He took care of his soldiers, and he took care of the Iraqi citizens.  … He gave them his best medical treatment that he could. … He did everything he could to save everybody …”

“… Right now he’s working very hard towards having a bright future.  He doing everything he can with everything that is available to him at the USDB (US Disciplinary Barracks) right now.  … He’s getting skills of something he can use towards our future, so we can have a family some day … “

“He’s hoping to have a bright future and be a productive citizen for our country.  He’s our hero.”


Joseph Mayo’s Family

Introduction by Joyce Kaufman:

“Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Mayo … served in the United States Army for almost 10 years. He deployed to combat 3 times, spending 6 months in Afghanistan and 25 months of his life in Iraq. Joe is the recipient also of a Purple Heart due to combat injuries. He also earned a Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medals, Meritorious Service Medal, and Army Achievement Medals as well.”

“Sgt. Mayo is not eligible for another Clemency Hearing also until 2011 because of the length of his sentence.”

“These are the stories that we need to go back and tell. That the men who are behind bars are decorated war heroes. These are men who gave it all. They signed a blank check with their lives for us and this is the way we’ve treated them.”

Joel Mayo, younger brother of Joseph Mayo:

“Joe has always wanted to serve his country in the military, coming from a family with a strong military background. …”

“Imagine losing 3 of your closest brothers in just the course of a few years. Joe did that. These were his brothers.”

“Joe himself almost lost his life … His vehicle was hit by an RPG. … Joe suffers from permanent hearing loss, traumatic brain injury, and severe post traumatic stress disorder.”

“Joe pleaded guilty for shooting one of the insurgents. … No one can imagine the state of mind he was in that day with all the stresses of battle, the lack of sleep, the malnutrition, the frustrations of having to fight the same enemy over and over again.”

“… Joe did what he thought was necessary to keep his men alive. If you were put in that same situation, what would you have done? …”

“The kids miss their father so much. … These kids need their father. Help us get Sgt. 1st Class Mayo home.”


Friends of John Hatley speak for his mom

Introduction by Joyce Kaufman:

“This is something we have to get done. We have to know these stories, we have to know these families …”

“John and two other soldiers (Sgt. Michael Leahy and Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Mayo) were charged with murdering 4 Iraqi detainees on one of their missions at the end of March 2007. The four men these soldiers were convicted of murdering were never identified by name, nor were their bodies found. There were no ballistics or forensic evidence found to support the men were even killed. Sgt. Leahy, Master Sgt. John Hatley were found guilty of premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Sgt. 1st Class Mayo pled and was found guilty of premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit murder.”

“Master Sgt. John Hatley was given an automatic life sentence, which was reduced to 40 years. He has served multiple deployments to Iraq, Kuwait and Kosovo. He received his Ranger tab and was awarded two Bronze Stars. Master Sgt. Hatley is not eligible for a Clemency Hearing until 2016 due to the length of his sentence.”

Richard Jacobs (“Jake”) spoke on behalf of John Hatley’s family:

“A little bit of irony here: Just north of here on the Ft. Leavenworth army base is a cemetery, and to the east of us here is the national cemetery — very famous. … I will guarantee you that there are fewer people in that cemetery just because of John Hatley and these other 9 that we’re talking about today.” …

“Renee, my wife, and my daughter Victoria, we visit John occasionally. We try to make it over there every two weeks — to Leavenworth prison.”

“It’s inspiring to be in his presence because he maintains his professionalism, his honor, and his integrity. He never ever says a disparaging word about any of the people who put him there, or any of the people who failed to come to his defense when they court marshaled him. …”

“He was convicted because of the politics involved, the rules of engagement, and also the ‘SOPs’. He calls SOPs the ‘Stupid Operating Procedures’ instead of ‘Standard Operating Procedures.’ …”

“I talked with John’s mother, Mrs. Hatley. They live down in Groesbeck, TX. I talked with her yesterday and asked if there was anything I could say on her behalf. … She said ‘John has always been a protector. From an early age he promised he would always protect his dad and me, and his country, and he’s doing a pretty damn good job of it.'”


Michael Pat Williams’ Family

Introduction by Joyce Kaufman:

“This is a man who was finished with his career in the military when 9/11 happened. He re-joined the military. He’s been to Kuwait, twice to Iraq. He served with Johnny Horn.”

“He’s eligible for his fourth Clemency Hearing this month on a 25 year sentence.”

Annetta Davis-Parker, Mother of Michael Pat Williams:

“He served his country. He went to Kuwait. He helped in the rescue of two of our men who had crossed enemy lines back in the early 90s. …”

“After 9/11, like Larry [Mendte] said, we called for the brave and the strong. He answered that call and re-enlisted as regular army. And he served proudly our country.”

“I come to you as a mother, as a grandmother, a patriot, and a Christian, most of all. …”

“He is an influencer. He is a change agent. He is in protective custody for being beaten unmercifully. He had only defensive wounds. That shows what control he had. In the Army he knew anything he did would be used against him, as the system is.”

“We still believe in our American judicial system. Things happen. Bad things happen. My son is the result of some bad things that happened.”

“My son married a woman … the week before he was deployed the second time. He came home. She got pregnant with their baby girl. He has never held his six year old at all. He’s seen her one time.”


Former Soldiers Telling About Similar Experiences

Johnny Horne

Part 1

“On my second tour of Iraq I was charged with 1st degree murder of killing an Iraqi in the line of duty.”

“We had been out on patrol for about 5 or 6 days straight. If you can imagine going about 5 days with no sleep …”

Horne gave a detailed description of the incident.

“… We’d like to engage one of the boxes to see if it explodes. … On today’s modern battle field you’ve got to call up and ask permission to engage the enemy. I still haven’t figured that out.” …

“At this time I’ve got to read a little bit: … Some of you here today may be saying to yourself … ‘I would have done the same thing.’ Some of you may think I was wrong in my decision. … And that’s OK, too.” …

“What I can tell you in full confidence is if you’ve never been there, if you’ve never been placed in that situation, you do not know what you would do.” …

Part 2

“I’m not sure if I’ll ever completely come to terms with everything I saw and did in Iraq. But, I do know one thing, I am not a murderer.”

“I did the job I was asked to do to the best of my ability … Because of my actions on the battlefield, and because of my leadership, I never lost a single soldier in the line of duty.”

“… I accepted a plea bargain for 2nd degree murder instead of first .. I was lucky, my jury came back with only [a] three” year sentence.”

“… I was sent to a holding facility in Kuwait. It was made of tents with these little wooden boxes … During my stay there I was told on a daily basis I would be getting out of solitary confinement. I spent 55 days in that wooden box. … I was forced to sleep on the same floor that I had relieved myself on. The whole time I was there I couldn’t help think that the enemy prisoner of war that I personally captured received better treatment than what I was receiving. Very hard to come to terms with that.”

“Today is about the young men in Leavenworth that stand accused of similar charges, who have lost their freedom due to actions in the line of fire. …

“I ask that instead of passing judgment on these young soldiers, you trust that they made the best decisions possible during what was probably the most difficult time of their lives.”

“Yes, there are indefensible crimes, like rape, torture … these are not the actions I’m talking about.” …

Horne reminded the audience of some of the details in the Behenna case.

“Someone, somewhere, sitting in an air conditioned office decided that 1st Lt. Behenna needed to be made to stand trial for the death of a known terrorist. Please help me understand this.”

“The situation brought about these soldier’s actions, not the soldier’s heart. Actions like these are very seldom planned or realized on paper.”

“I felt that I was made an example of, not for the sake of my fellow soldiers, but for the sake of the Iraqi people. … I still feel it was the Army’s way of showing the Iraqi people that we are a kinder, gentler army, and death on the battle field will not be tolerated.”

“… My life and the life of my fellow brothers in arms is worth a hell of a lot more than to be used as some political tool to be disposed of when my usefulness has expired” (long applause)

“I signed up to defend the Constitution of the United States of America and did so to the best of my ability. And I was punished accordingly for it.” …

“When a soldier hears of other soldiers being persecuted for doing their job, it makes a soldier hesitate before he pulls the trigger. A soldier that hesitates is a dead soldier.” …

“You demoralize a solider with these actions and pretty soon you have an army of highly trained soldiers that are scared to fight.” …

“Call news media … call your Congressman. Let your voices be heard in support for these men. Ask them and demand an answer to this question: ‘since when do we buy an enemy country’s allegiance by persecuting our own people?'”


Lt. Col. Allen B. West (US Army, Retired)

Part 1.

“I’m here today because I think this is a very important issue that we need to be talking about.  I think there is something systemically wrong with the United States of America on how we continue to prosecute and persecute our warriors.  My own episode that I went through in 2003 is reason why I’m here, because I think I can lend some credibility and validity to address this issue.”

“Many of you do know about my situation back in Iraq in 2003 when as battalion commander I decided to take an action against an Iraqi policeman who was withholding some information that we needed to make sure that we didn’t have the continued exposure of the men in my battalion to roadside ambushes and attacks.”  …

“It could have been very easy for me to be sitting right there behind those walls of the disciplinary barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, but it was because of the American people.  It was because people found out about my story that I was able to be standing here in front of you.”

“I will not rest, I will not tire, I will not grow weary until those 10 men are free …”

How is it that this country has gotten so up-side-down?  How is it that we are now taking the people that will sacrifice and defend the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy and we take away their freedoms and liberties?”  …

“We have a failure to understand and identify who this enemy is and their tactics.”

“We’re fighting against an enemy that has no respect for life.”

“This is a war for our survival.”

“How can you prosecute a war when you tell our men and women in combat you cannot fire until fired upon?  How can you prosecute a war when you tell them that you must alert the enemy before you go into an operation?  How can you prosecute a war, when say unless you see hostile intent there is nothing that you can do?”

“We’re confused.  We don’t understand that this is combat operation.  This is not a police action.”

Part 2.

“You can’t have political correctness on the battlefield.  You cannot sacrifice our young men and women for political correctness.”  ..

“We have our men and women in confinement — solitary confinement — but yet we have the ACLU concerned about what’s going on with John Walker Lindh. … How many times have you seen the ACLU or any of these other groups that go and make sure that the men and women that we’re imprisoning here in Leavenworth — these 10 individuals — are protected and taken care of?  There is something up-side-down in this country right now.”

“I don’t care what anyone says.  You can show this enemy all the love, benevolence.  You can bring Oprah Winfrey out — she can give them all the hugs that they want.  But they are still going to hate us.”

“How is it that we live in a country where we think that people that are not Americans, people that have tried to kill Americans, all of a sudden are deserving of constitutional rights where our 10 soldiers are sitting there being denied their constitutional rights?  There’s something up-side-down in the United States of America.”

“Our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen, our marines, our combat warriors, are more afraid of JAG (Judge Advocate General) officers than they are of the enemy, and the JAG officers know that.”

“These are JAG officers that I think one simple thing should be done:  Before you prosecute an American warrior, you walk a patrol, you get up there in those hills, you get on those alleys.  I’m sick and tired of people that graduate from law schools.  They get a uniform put on them .. and they have yet to have been out there with our combat soldiers.  There’s something upside down in the United States of America.”

“There is irresponsible leadership in this country.  It is not the fault of those 10 men sitting there.  It’s the fault of irresponsible leaders.  It’s the fault of irresponsible leaders that won’t stand up for their men and take responsibility:  ‘Do not punish my men, you punish me’.”

“You’ve got to change this.  You’ve got to make sure that this representative democracy hears your voice.”

“We will not allow these 10 men to be forgotten.”


“Leavenworth 10” Supporters

Beverly PerlsonTheBandofMothers.com

Beverly Perlson:

“When our country was attacked on 9/11 on our soil my son and the Leavenworth 10 charged to the rescue of their country to avenge the deaths of 3000 of their fellow Americans. There are no parades for these warriors and some are now incarcerated for doing what we asked them to do.”

“If the military courts will not allow our warriors to sign the same pledge and go home that they are affording the terrorists taken off the battlefield, then I have a proposal for them: Take me, and allow me to replace one of these warriors, and I will finish his sentence. I believe there are nine more mothers here that would do the same.”

“The motto of The Band of Mothers is ‘Warriors come from warriors,’ and it’s about time that the mothers of these warriors were heard. Give the Leavenworth warriors the same pledge you have given the terrorists, and let them come home.”


Elizabeth Kilbride, Author

Part 1

“In the cases of the Leavenworth 10, politics got in they way.” …

“They have been reduced from warriors to a number.” …

“Are we as Americans going to allow this to continue? Are we going to forget them? Are we going to leave them behind? This woman will not allow that to happen. I refuse to allow them to be left behind.” …

“The last time this country saw a warrior taken off the battle field and sent to Leavenworth prison was during Vietnam. He was one soldier. Today it’s not just one. … We only know of 10 that we’re representing today — there’s actually 97.” …

“We must stop the military legal system from stripping our warriors of their civil rights.”

“They have witnessed their best friend being killed a few feet away, or die in their own arms. They see children who only a few minutes before them were laughing and playing in the streets only to be blown up by some insurgent. They think of home, their wives, their children, and long for the day when they can hold them and love them once again. They think of their parents and siblings and long for the home-cooked meals that are prepared by loving hands.”

“They are in purgatory. A place that is a living hell and frustration.”

Part 2

“I want you to contact your congressman. … I want you to contact them and demand that they represent you in Washington by doing one simple thing: … Request for a congressional inquiry into these 10 cases. … They have the power to undo this.”

“Why do we allow known combatants to have more luxuries than brave American warriors?”



Contact: Earl F Glynn, [email protected], KansasWatchdog.org