DEADLY TRADITION: Recent Spike in Hazing-Related Suicides Exposes Deeply Entrenched, Hidden Military Rituals

Spc Tad Donoho reacts to pain inside a bunker at Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, in 2008 after his infantry platoon mates gave him a ‘pink belly’ ceremony to mark his birthday. The ‘pink belly’ is a widely-practiced ceremonial tradition administered upon junior-ranked soldiers by their peers and leaders in which the receiving soldier’s stomach is repeatedly struck until it begins to turn pink and bruise. View more photos of Spc. Donoho and his platoon mates. (Tim Hetherington)

Military Hazing Has Got to Stop

New York Times, Aug. 3, 2012

BLOGBACK: It is worth considering the following. Had Congresswoman Judy Chu not been related to Lance Cpl Harry Lew, would she have become a potent advocate for any military-related issues (and there are many)? Had Senator Patty Murray not had a father who served in heavy combat during World War II, would she have become one of the rare congressional leaders who today understands the critical responsibility lawmakers have to provide the needed attention and resources to military members before, during and after the nation orders them to war … orders them to leave their homes and loved ones to go overseas and fight violent campaigns in the name of America again, and again, and again, and again? It is unlikely. Fewer than one half of one percent of Americans currently serve in the military. For this reason, there is today a screaming need to ensure more congressional leaders have relevant military experience. The national leadership, starting with the president, should immediately realize this and establish a program or offer special incentives for military veterans to move from leadership in uniform to leadership in Congress.

Last fall, at an outpost in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Danny Chen, a 19-year-old Army private, was singled out for hazing by Sgt. Adam Holcomb and five other soldiers, all of whom were senior in rank to their victim.

They believed Danny was a weak soldier, someone who fell asleep on guard duty, who forgot his helmet.

So for six weeks, they dispensed “corrective training” that violated Army policy. When he failed to turn off the water pump in the shower, he was dragged across a gravel yard on his back until it bled. They threw rocks at him to simulate artillery. They called him “dragon lady,” “gook” and “chink.”

Finally, Danny could take it no longer. He put the barrel of his rifle to his chin and pulled the trigger. The pain was over.

Earlier this week, a jury of military personnel found Sergeant Holcomb guilty of one count of assault and two counts of maltreatment, for which he was sentenced to one month in jail — far less than the 17 years that he could have received.

When I read about this outrageous token sentence, I had a flashback.

On April 3, 2011, my nephew, 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, was serving his second year in the Marines in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, when he was hazed for over three hours by two of his fellow soldiers because he, too, fell asleep on duty.

At the urging of their sergeant, who told them that “peers should correct peers,” they punched and kicked him. They poured the contents of a full sandbag onto his face, causing him to choke and cough as it filled his nose and mouth.

Lance Cpl Harry Lew

Twenty-two minutes after the hazing stopped, he, too, used his own gun to commit suicide, in a foxhole he had been forced to dig.

His parents and I waited patiently for justice to be served and watched in horror and disbelief as his perpetrators’ behavior was dismissed, with one lance corporal receiving just a month in jail, and the other two Marines found not guilty.

In both cases, military defense attorneys claimed that the perpetrators of hazing had suffered enough.

Our young people make a great sacrifice when they go off to war. They are in mentally tough, physically dangerous situations all the time. We must take every mistake that puts the lives of our soldiers at risk seriously, whether it is falling asleep on guard duty or something else.

“Corrective training” is designed to do that.

The Army recommends that senior officers create a plan with a soldier who needs improvement, supervise the training and set timelines and targets.

But using corrective training as punishment is supposed to be strictly prohibited.

Read the rest of this story:

Watch video examples of current and past military hazing scenes:

Recon Marines Gold Wing Ceremony

Marine Discusses Barracks Alcohol Hazing

Marine Plays Video Game While Recalling Hazing Experiences

Marine Chokes Out Platoon Mate in Barracks

Army Scouts Haze Platoon Mate

Army Traditional Promotion Ceremony “Pinning” #1

Army Traditional Promotion Ceremony “Pinning” #2

Army Traditional Promotion Ceremony “Pinning”

Army Pink Belly Ceremony

Navy SEAL Promotion Ceremony


2 Responses

  1. He who takes his life is a pussy. If you fall asleep while in duty you should be corrected by any means necessary.

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