|My nephew, Marine Lance Corporal Harry Lew, was a victim of hazing. And it killed him. Hazing is a serious problem in the military, and though the military has policies in place, they aren’t being enforced and they aren’t effective. Just last year, Private Hamson Daniels McPherson, Jr., stationed in Okinawa, faced near constant racist hazing by his fellow Marines. Finally he couldn’t stand the harassment. With no help from the military and no escape - he set himself on fire. |
In 2011, Private Danny Chen forced to do excessive sit-ups, push-ups, and sprints carrying sandbags. Rocks were thrown at him. Chen was forced to wear a construction hat and give orders in Chinese even though no one else spoke the language. He was called gook and chink. In December, after six weeks of this, Danny shot himself.
In 2010, Army Specialist Brushaun Anderson was forced to perform physical exercise in his body armor over and over. He was made to build a sandbag wall with no purpose. He was called dirty and forced to wear a plastic trash bag at all times. So one day, Anderson went to the porta-potty and committed suicide.
Then there is Harry. The Harry Lew that we knew loved to joke and in fact, was known for his skill in breakdancing. At age 19 he enlisted in the Marines and was sent to Afghanistan. Harry was found asleep on duty. At 11:15 PM, his Sergeant cursed at Harry, loud enough to wake up the rest of the Marines, announcing that "peers should correct peers."
At 12:01 AM, the hazing onslaught began. Harry’s peers took it upon themselves to administer justice and “corrective training.” They berated him and ordered him to dig a foxhole, to do pushups, crunches, and planks with his heavy full body armor and a 25-lb sandbag. They stomped on his back, kicked and punched him, and poured the entire contents of a sandbag onto his face and in his mouth. It lasted a full 3 hours and 20 minutes.
Finally, 22 minutes after they stopped, at 3:43 AM, Harry climbed into a foxhole and killed himself with his own gun. He was 21 years old. And what happened after all these horrible incidents, where brave volunteer soldiers lost their lives? Nothing.
According to press reports, almost a year after Hamson died, no one has been charged. The Army dropped the most serious charges against the 8 perpetrators in Danny’s death. All four of the soldiers who tormented Brushaun maintained their leadership positions within the Army. And 2 of the Marine’s in Harry’s case were found not guilty. Even a jay walker would get a worse penalty. The third was given just one month in confinement. He just got out and all his buddies threw him a big celebration.
The only thing worse than that lack of accountability is the lack of focus on the part of our armed forces. But how can we make progress if the military doesn’t even record and monitor basic facts, like the number of hazing incidents? They must stop sweeping hazing under the rug. They must stop pretending there is no problem. They must change the military culture that says hazing is tolerated, if not encouraged.
I'm incredibly proud of our troops. They bravely sacrifice for us every day, making it all the more critical to ensure they’re treated fairly and not subject to harassment or violent hazing. And as long as I am in Congress, I will not stop until we end the pervasive hazing culture in our military.
Judy Chu, PhD
Member of Congress