Asian-American soldier was forced by comrades to crawl 100m on gravel while being pelted with rocks hours before he killed himself
The parents of a New York City Army private who committed suicide in Afghanistan have been told distressing new details of the racial bullying and mistreatment their son endured at the hands of his comrades.
A spokeswoman for Chen’s parents said investigators told them that on the day of his death, he was forced to crawl 100 metres on gravel with his equipment on as fellow GIs threw rocks at him.
Speaking through an interpreter, his mother said her 19-year-old son was called ‘dragon lady’ and derogatory phrases.
Soldiers made him give orders in Chinese while they mocked him. He was also forced to do multiple push-ups and sprints.
Private Danny Chen, who grew up in New York’s Chinatown area, was found dead in a guard tower at Combat Outpost Palace on October 3 after apparently committing suicide.
Eight U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan have been charged in connection with multiple counts of negligent homicide, assault and involuntary manslaughter.
Chen’s parents met with Army officials at the Fort Hamilton base in Brooklyn, where Army officers released the results of their investigation.
They later held a news conference where they revealed the distressing new details.
On the day of his death, Chen was forced to crawl on gravel while soldiers threw rocks at him.
He was separately taunted and mocked, all because he was the only Chinese-American in his unit, said Elizabeth OuYang, a spokeswoman for the family.
‘Almost immediately after he arrived, Danny was required to do exercises, which quickly, within a few days, crossed over into abuse,’ she said.
The alleged anti-Asian bullying and taunting started during basic training when fellow soldiers used a mocking accent while calling him Jackie Chen; others allegedly told him to ‘go back to China’.
On September 27, OuYang said a sergeant dragged Chen out of bed and over gravel, which left him with shoulder bruises and cuts on his back. The top two leaders of the platoon knew about this, she said, but chose not to report it.
His mother, who wept throughout the conference, told reporters that the pain of her only son’s death still has not subsided.
His father urged that the trial of eight fellow soldiers, for an array of counts from dereliction of duty to negligent homicide, should be held in the United States, not in Afghanistan.
‘The family has been through absolute hell,’ OuYang added. ‘They must have the right to face those who are found guilty.’
The family also is awaiting answers from 25 questions they asked the Army, they said, which promised a response by January 13.
Investigations continue into Chen’s death. It is now no longer clear whether Private Chen, who was from the Chinatown area of Manhattan did in fact take his own life.
Hundreds of supporters held a vigil recently after demanding officials address the treatment of Asians in the military, reported MSNBC.
His cousin Banny Chen read out a letter sent by Private Chen in February at the vigil last Thursday, which said: ‘Everyone knows me by Chen’.
‘They ask if I’m from China a few times a day,’ he wrote. ‘They also call out my name Chen in a goat-like voice sometimes for no reason.
‘People crack jokes about Chinese people all the time. I’m running out of jokes to come back at them.’
Around 400 people were at the vigil and march in Manhattan as Occupy Wall Street protesters also got involved.
Asian Pacific Americans civil rights group OCA has expressed outrage at what happened and have their own theory on why he was allegedly abused.
‘They did it because they knew that there was an environment that they would get away with it,’ an OCA spokesman said, reported NBC New York.
Relatives of Private Chen said they are encouraged to learn of the charges brought.
His father Yen Tao Chen said the family realises he will never return, but the news ‘gives us some hope’.
First Lieutenant Daniel J. Schwartz, Staff Sergeant Blaine G. Dugas and Staff Sergeant Andrew J. Van Bockel were all charged.
Sergeant Adam M. Holcomb, Sergeant Jeffrey T. Hurst, Specialist Thomas P. Curtis, Specialist Ryan J. Offutt and Sergeant Travis F. Carden were also charged.
All eight soldiers are of 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.