[via angry asian man]
Jennifer Gonnerman of New York magazine has a riveting account of the life and death of Private Danny Chen, a 19-year-old Chinese-American soldier who was found with a gunshot to his head in Afghanistan. The gunshot, as it turned out, was not inflicted by armed Afghan rebels, but by Chen himself. The abuse that he had to put up from his platoon mates for being the only Asian guy around was too much to bear. Here’s a short snippet from the story:
Near the end of August, he was sent to a combat outpost in Kandahar Province, which had been dubbed “The Palace” by the Canadian troops who had been there previously. It was anything but. A Canadian news agency later described this part of the country as “a boiling cauldron of never-ending roadside bombs, booby traps, and ambushes that drove even the best right up to the edge.” The last two Canadian casualties there were suspected suicides.
When he arrived, Chen was at the bottom of the social hierarchy: a newcomer to his unit, a lowly private, still just a teenager, in a combat zone for the first time. And the only Chinese-American in his platoon. In a meeting with Chen’s parents on January 4, Army officials said that his superiors had considered him not fit enough when he arrived, and singled him out for excessive physical exercise: push-ups, flutter-kicks, sit-ups, sprints done while carrying a sandbag. Such punishments resemble the “smokings” that drill sergeants mete out at basic training to correct mistakes. But, in Chen’s case, it wasn’t long before this campaign of “corrective training” escalated into sheer brutality.
The eight men later charged in connection with his death are all white and range in age from 24 to 35; they include one lieutenant, two staff sergeants, three sergeants, and two specialists. Members of this group allegedly harassed and humiliated Chen from almost the day he arrived at The Palace. They belittled him with racial slurs. They forced him to do push-ups with a mouthful of water, refusing to let him swallow or spit any out. And, on September 27, a sergeant allegedly yanked him out of bed and dragged him across about 50 yards of gravel toward a shower trailer as punishment for supposedly breaking the hot-water pump. He endured bruises and cuts on his back. Army officials told Chen’s family that although the leader of his platoon found out about this incident, he never reported it as he was required to.
One week later, on the morning of October 3, Chen was scheduled to report for guard duty at 7:30 a.m. But when he got to the guard tower, he realized he’d forgotten his helmet and didn’t have enough water. A superior sent him back to the trailer to get what he needed, then allegedly forced him to crawl, with all his equipment, across some 100 meters of gravel in order to return to the tower so he could start his shift. While he was on the ground, two other superiors pelted him with rocks. And once he reached the tower, a superior grabbed him by his body armor and dragged him up the steps.
He entered the tower at about 8 a.m. The soldier he was relieving asked him if he was okay. “No sweat,” Chen answered. The other soldier left. At 11:13, from inside the tower, the sound of a gunshot echoed through the Palace.
Read the entire story here.