Suicide of Hawaiʻi Marine raises issues of hazing, racial jokes

The Honolulu Star Advertiser reports that the hearing about the hazing and subsequent suicide of Lance Cpl. Harry Lew may have had racial overtones.  Lew was Chinese American:

Hazing and race in the Marine Corps were focused on Friday as a hearing at Marine Corps Base Hawaii continued to examine the suicide death of Lance Cpl. Harry Lew in Afghanistan and whether three Marines should be punished for their actions leading up to it.

The 21-year-old from Santa Clara, Calif., was on his first combat deployment when he was subjected to a series of physical tasks, had sand dumped on his face, and was kicked and punched in the helmet after falling asleep on guard duty for the fourth time at an austere patrol base, according to an investigation.


Investigating officer Lt. Col. Douglas Gardner, the judge in the case, repeatedly asked witnesses whether Lew’s Asian-American background was the subject of comments.

Navy corpsman Bruce Lara, who is of Asian descent and served with Lew at PB Gowragi, said racial jokes did bother Lew to a small degree, but that there was equal treatment of all ethnicities in Marines’ jokes.

It turns out that Lew was related to some powerful people:

A House Armed Services hearing Friday on the status of suicide prevention programs in the military gave leaders from the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marine Corps a chance to answer lawmakers’ questions about identifying service members at risk and other steps they are taking to stop suicides. The military witnesses highlighted their efforts and described how services members often “dance with some dragons,” which was how Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Milstead Jr., put it.

Toward the end of the hourlong session, California Rep. Judy Chu talked about the life and death of Lew.

He was her nephew.

On August 18, the Everett Herald reported:

Since the first of July, five soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord have died in apparent suicides, part of an Army-wide upsurge in such deaths despite stepped-up prevention efforts.

Democracy Now! interviewed Ashley Joppa-Hagemann, the widow of 25-year-old Staff Sgt. Jared Hagemann, who committed suicide on June 28, 2011, ahead of his eighth redeployment to Iraq & Afghanistan. She confronted former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Friday about his role in inspiring her husband to enlist after 9/11.

Other stories about Ms. Joppa-Hagemann confrontation with Rumsfeld can be read here and here.

Troop suicides are at an all time high, and the military does not know what to do.  Well, they can start by ending the illegal and immoral wars.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *