(WASHINGTON) — A senator is calling on the U.S. Defense Department to conduct a system-wide review of alleged hazing incidents in the military, after eight soldiers in Afghanistan were charged in connection with the death of Army Pvt. Danny Chen, who apparently committed suicide in October.
Chen had told family and friends that he was the target of persistent racial taunts and abusive treatment by his comrades in arms.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, requested the investigation due to concern that Chen’s death is a reflection of a larger problem of military hazing.
“I cannot imagine what [Chen’s parents] are going through as they mourn the senseless loss of their son,” Gillibrand said. “No soldier should have to mentally or physically fear another soldier. There is no room for discrimination and mistreatment in our military. We need to ensure that those responsible for this type of abuse are held accountable and we must take steps to prevent any more tragedies from happening.”
“It is outrageous that any man or woman serving our country would be subject to discrimination or harassment,” she wrote in a letter to Dr. Joanne Rooney, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.
The Army did not say whether the eight soldiers charged actually killed Chen or whether their mistreatment of Chen caused him to kill himself.
Minority advocates have long been concerned about the treatment of Asian Americans in the military. Asian-Americans make up about 5 percent of the U.S. population, but historically have stayed away from the military, making up less than 3 percent of all military recruits.
Chen was the second Asian American to die of apparent suicide in Afghanistan this year.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Tal Kopan, CNN
Frank Pallotta, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN