WASHINGTON — Lawmakers Thursday called for congressional hearings into hazing in the US military while urging an end to “institutional” abuse that has led to suicides among soldiers.
Representative Judy Chu, whose Marine nephew, Lance Corporal Harry Lew, committed suicide in Afghanistan last year some 20 minutes after enduring severe hazing by fellow Marines, said “enough was enough” as she called for hearings on what the military is doing to stop the abuse.
“The highest military officers must make eliminating hazing a top priority,” she said at a press conference.
Top military leaders “must stop pretending there is no problem,” she said, adding, “None of this will change until the Secretary of Defense commits to eradicate the culture of hazing that is so ingrained within our troops.”
Chu said she and fellow lawmakers had reached out to Pentagon chief Leon Panetta to discuss the issue, but were yet to hear back from his office.
A Marine investigation said Lew committed suicide last year after a hazing that included Marines pouring sand in his mouth, kicking him and punching him.
Chu, however, said the military was attempting to “sweep the issue under the rug” after a ruling Monday that found hazing was not considered an issue in Lew’s death, which occurred after he endured three hours of hazing when he was found asleep at his post.
The accused fellow Marine, Lance Corporal Jacob Jacoby was sentenced Monday to 30 days confinement as the judge in the case said she found no evidence the abuse Lew endured led to the suicide.
The “hand slap sentencing” of Jacoby, said lawmaker Mike Honda on Thursday, showed that the system the Pentagon has in place to deal with hazing “does not work,” adding that Lew’s death was an “urgent call to action.”