Eight U.S. Army soldiers are facing charges including involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide, assault, dereliction of duty, reckless endangerment, communicating a threat, maltreatment and making a false officials statement after having allegedly bullied and hazed another soldier until he was driven to suicide, according to reports published in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Pvt. Danny Chen, 19, born and raised in Lower Manhattan, was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. Although based in Fort Wainwright, Alaska, the division is serving in the Kandahar province in Afghanistan.
Chen found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a guard tower on Oct. 3.
Although military officials are not discussing details of the investigation or the charges, Chinese community activist Elizabeth OuYang, president of the New York chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans, said that according to information gleaned from emails, Facebook posts, discussions with cousins and pages of Chen’s journal that have been released by the Army, Chen faced incessant bullying based on his ethnicity.
OuYang said Chen’s fellow soldiers dragged him across the floor, threw rocks at the back of his head and mocked him by calling him “Jackie Chen” — a reference to Chinese martial arts star Jackie Chen — in a bad Chinese accent. OuYang also said that once after Chen left the water heater on after showering, the other soldiers forced him to hold liquid in his mouth while hanging upside down.
Five of the eight soldiers charged in connection with Chen’s death are facing charges of involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide and assault consummated by battery, as well as other charges. Those five are Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Van Bockel, Sgt. Adam M. Holcomb, Sgt. Jeffrey T. Hurst, Specialist Thomas P. Curtis and Specialist Ryan J. Offutt.
Sgt. Travis F. Carden was charged with assault and maltreatment, Staff Sgt. Blaine G. Dugas was charged with dereliction of duty and making a false statement. The only officer facing charges, Lt. Daniel J. Schwartz, was charged with dereliction of duty.
I know that the bullying and hazing directed at Chen was reportedly based on his Chinese ethnicity, with no mention made of anything related to his sexual orientation, But bullying is bullying, no matter what the bullying is based on, and bullying kills. This story also makes me think of those folks who say that bullied children and teens just need to grow a set and get over it. But if a trained soldier stationed in Afghanistan can be bullied into suicide, what chance does a lonely kid questioning his or her sexual orientation or gender identity have against those who think might makes right?