MANHATTAN — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is calling for the Defense Department to review hazing incidents within the armed forces and their ties to racism in the wake of the suspected bullying death of Chinatown soldier Pvt. Danny Chen.
In a letter to Dr. Joanne Rooney, the Acting Undersecretary for Defense for Personnel and Readiness, New York's junior senator called for an accounting of the incidents and any disciplinary and training measures taken to address them.
"While I am pleased to see that the Army is taking this very seriously and has moved to transfer and charge eight soldiers in the case," she wrote. "I am concerned that this case could be emblematic of a broader issue that needs to be closely reviewed and immediately addressed."
Chen was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in Kandahar Province on Oct. 3. Allegations have since been made that Chen had been subjected to ethnic taunts, beaten with rocks and forced to do chin-ups with a mouth full of liquid that he couldn't spit out.
Eight soldiers have since been hit with a variety of charges including involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide and will face trial in Afghanistan.
"As you know, Private Chen’s case is not the first instance of alleged hazing of an Asian American serving in the military," Gillibrand wrote. "It is outrageous that any man or woman serving our country would be subject to discrimination or harassment."
Earlier in the year, Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, based in Hawaii, committed suicide after being subjected to hazing, Gillibrand said. That led to the court-martial of several soldiers in the incident.
"My deepest condolences go out to the Chen family,” Gillibrand said. “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.”