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March 6, 2012
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Chu (CA-32), Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) joined the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings (MD-07), and Senator Ben Cardin (MD) in hosting a forum to address hazing in the military and receive a status update on the implementation of diversity recommendations provided by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission in March of 2011.  Following the briefing, Congresswoman Chu released the following statement:

“In October of last year, Private Danny Chen shot himself after enduring mistreatment by his fellow soldiers and his direct superiors on an almost daily basis.  Five months earlier, Private Hamson Daniels McPherson, Jr., set himself on fire after near constant racist hazing and abuse at the hands of his fellow Marines.  The month before that, my nephew, Lance Corporal Harry Lew, took his own life after enduring horrendous hazing at the hands of two of his peers, with the consent of their commanding officer.  On New Year’s Day, 2010, Army Specialist Brushaun Anderson, who was one of the few black soldiers in his unit, committed suicide after he was singled out for hazing by his 4 superior officers.

“These are the words Brushaun left us with, scrawled upon a suicide note: ‘I feel like a failure.  I feel like I’ve failed.  And there’s no hope of improving.’

“The only real failure here is that of our armed services, for not adequately addressing hazing and therefore allowing these young Americans to be punished so severely that they took their own lives to make the suffering stop.

“During today’s forum, we heard from a panel of former military officers who emphasized how much more can be done by leadership in the armed services to address hazing.  Then we heard directly from military leaders, who sadly, did nothing but reiterate the policies that are already in place.  They want us to ignore their abysmal results and trust that these failing policies will somehow work in the future.  I do not believe them.

“We must eradicate the culture of hazing that is so ingrained within our troops, and ensure that our officers are diverse so the chain of command can better understand the challenges every military volunteer, from every background faces.  Servicemembers in positions of responsibility in the field must be made to feel that they should stop hazing when they see it, rather than encourage it, or turn the other way.  The perpetrators of hazing must actually be punished.”

Background:  Recent instances of military hazing, including the hazing of Congresswoman Chu’s nephew, Harry Lew, have raised serious questions about equal treatment and opportunity for service members, and have highlighted the need for diversity in the military’s leadership.  Today’s briefing allowed Congressional leaders to hear directly from senior officials from each branch of the Armed Services on actions taken to address military hazing and the Military Leadership Diversity Commission’s recommendations.  It was the first time members of Congress were able to question defense officials directly about hazing and mistreatment within their ranks.  The forum followed extensive efforts by Congresswoman Chu to raise awareness about hazing in the armed services, including a call for Congressional hearings into the military’s policies addressing the problem.