Judy Chu

Calling for Hearing on Military Hazing - Feb. 3. 2012

Judy Chu
February 03, 2012— Washington, DC
Press conference
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Thank you for attending this press conference. Today Congress members and community members have gathered to say, "Enough is enough." The military must stop the hazing that is taking the lives of the patriotic young people that want to serve our country. I am Congress Member Judy Chu, and I have a personal reason for being here. My nephew was a victim of hazing, and it killed him. The Harry Lew that we knew loved to joke and, in fact, was known for his skill in breakdancing. But he had admired the Marines, and, at age 19, he decided to enlist. So last year, Lance Corporal Harry Lew was stationed in Afghanistan and was transferred to a new unit 12 days before this fateful day. On April 2, Harry was found asleep on duty. At 11:15 p.m. his sergeant verbally berated and cursed at Harry loud enough to wake up the rest of the Marines, announcing to the unit that peers should take care of peers. At 12:01 a.m., the hazing onslaught began. Harry's own peers, two lance corporals, took it upon themselves to administer justice and corrective training. They berated him and ordered him to dig a foxhole and to perform pushups, crunches, and planks while wearing his heavy full-body armor and a 25-pound sand bag. They stomped on his back and legs. They kicked and punched him and they poured the entire contents of a sand bag onto his face and in his mouth. This lasted a full 3 hours and 20 minutes. Finally, 22 minutes after they stopped at 3:43 a.m., Harry climbed into a foxhole and killed himself with an automatic weapon. On his arm he had scrawled, "You may hate me now, but in the long run this was the right choice. I'm sorry. My mom deserves to know the truth." He was 21 years old. On Monday, I went to the Marine Corp Base in Hawaii to attend the sentencing hearing of Jacob Jacoby, one of the three Marines accused in the hazing death of Harry. Jacoby did the greatest physical damage to Harry. He was charged with hazing and three counts of assault. But immediately the case against Jacoby was eviscerated by the Marines through two factors: First, in a plea bargain, the Marines agreed to remove the hazing charge; Second, the judge refused to allow suicide to be considered in the case, saying that there was not enough evidence that the suicide was connected to the hazing. This is despite the fact that the suicide occurred only 20 minutes after the hazing. Thus the very basis of the case that makes it so tragic was removed, and the only basis upon which to levy the sentence were the assaults. The defense attorneys said in their closing arguments that this was an isolated case…that Jacoby was a good man, with a great future in the Marines, and that he had suffered enough by having to even go through this trial. Therefore there should be at most only a 30-day confinement. Within minutes of his statement, the judge delivered her verdict that the punishment would be only a 30-day confinement. It was a slap in the face to the life of Harry Lew. The judge had the ability to impose a sentence of up to a year. She imposed 30 days. She had the ability to reduce the pay by two-thirds. She reduced none of it. She had the ability to impose a dishonorable discharge. She merely reduced his rank from lance corporal to private, which means he continues to serve and get promoted. Jacoby took it upon himself, with no authority in rank, to assault Harry for 3 and a half hours, resulting in a trauma so deep he committed suicide 20 minutes later. Jacoby gets to advance his career in the military, and Harry is dead. But Harry's story is only the tip of the iceberg. Just last year, Private Hamson Daniels McPherson, stationed in Okinawa, reportedly set himself on fire. This occurred after near constant racist hazing and abuse at the hands of his fellow Marines according to the family. McPherson called home regularly and complained to his dad, sister, and friends about the racist treatment he and other black Marines endured. Just last year, seven Coast Guard men were convicted for tying down fellow crew members, forcing them to strip, coating them in foreign substances, and calling them derogatory names. In some instances there was even inappropriate sexual contact. And just last year—only four months ago—Private Danny Chen was found dead, apparently of a self-inflicted wound. Chen was subjected to mistreatment by his fellow soldiers and his direct superiors almost on a daily basis for weeks. He was forced to do excessive sit-ups, pushups, runs, and sprints carrying sandbags —amongst other things—and rocks were thrown at him to simulate artillery. When the soldiers were putting up a tent, Chen was forced to wear a construction hat and give instructions in Chinese, even though none of the other soldiers spoke the language. He was also called racial slurs and was forced to work additional details. Now the Army is considering dropping the most serious charge against one of the soldiers who caused the most harm to Danny. And that was just in 2011 alone. These numerous and violent hazing incidents and the lack of justice in Harry's case show that hazing is not taken seriously by the military. Though they supposedly have policies and training in place to prohibit it, it is not being enforced, and it is not effective. In fact, under the term of corrective action, it is tolerated and even encouraged within the ranks. I am calling this press conference to say that this must stop. Too many patriotic young people, who only want to serve our country, are being harmed. The highest military officials must make eliminating hazing a top priority. They must stop sweeping it under the rug. They must stop pretending there is no problem. After the death of my nephew, I received so many letters from people around the country who recounted the stories of hazing their families received in the service. But what was even more disturbing is the fact that they felt helpless in fighting it. None of this will change until the Secretary of Defense commits to eradicate the culture of hazing that is so ingrained within our troops. Soldiers in positions of responsibility in the field must be made to feel that they should stop hazing when they see it rather than encouraging it or turning the other way. The perpetrators of hazing must also actually be punished. Currently there is little deterrence. Certainly if Jacob Jacoby can get off within with a month of confinement there is not much consequence to hazing, even if the result is death. Nothing will change unless the people at the very top say that this is a problem and take actions to change the culture and consequences of hazing. I am calling for a congressional hearing on hazing. I am calling for a change in military hazing policy. I am calling for reform, and I am calling for actual enforcement instead of looking the other way.

Speech from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Arc0CDTkYek.