WASHINGTON — Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, sent the following message to her supporters on Monday. She is the aunt of Lance Corporal Harry Lew, 21, who took his own life while serving in Afghanistan last year.
I have distressing news to tell you. On Friday, the trial of the third perpetrator of hazing against my nephew Harry Lew concluded. Tragically, Lance Corporal Carlos Orozco was found not guilty.
This not-guilty verdict is the second assault on Harry and his family. Orozco took matters into his own hands, joining his fellow Marine in assaulting Harry for 3½ hours, but now, he gets to go free, and Harry is dead.
It is a travesty of justice and it is outrageous. The verdict implies that Harry’s life is not even worth the smallest of punishment, not even a one-dollar fine, not even one pushup, not even the carrying of one sandbag. Even a jaywalker would get greater punishment.
Three Marines were charged in the crime. The not-guilty verdicts of Orozco and (Sgt. Benjamin) Johns, and the minimal punishment for (Lance Corporal Jacob) Jacoby show that justice cannot be obtained in the military system. In a military trial, the “jury of the peers” is comprised entirely of Marines, who think that hazing is normal and even expected. Therefore, unless the community demands change, nothing will happen to these Marines who assault other Marines, even though they are supposed to be fighting on the same side of the war.
No military family should have had to endure the injustice of these verdicts. The Lew family lost their only son, and the perpetrators can go on with their lives as though nothing ever happened, and continue to climb the career ranks in the Marines.
In the last several weeks, I’ve received such an outpouring of support from all of you, and I truly appreciate it. Many of you have expressed outrage and are appalled by the outcome of Harry’s case. Many of you have asked what you can do to change the culture of military hazing, and make sure no other families have to endure such a tragedy.
Here’s how. Join me in standing up against military hazing and support a zero tolerance policy by signing this petition to Secretary (Leon) Panetta and the Department of Defense right now:
And please spread the word to your family, friends, and co-workers. The more signatures we have, then the more our voices will be heard, and the stronger impact we will make.
In the meanwhile, we are pressing for congressional hearings on military hazing. The responses to our requests have been promising, but it is important for your congressmembers to hear from you as to the importance of these hearings.
Together, we can make sure other military families don’t ever have to suffer from such devastating losses. We can make sure that the deaths of Harry Lew and Danny Chen were not in vain. We can honor their memories by pressuring the military to take real steps to reform their anti-hazing policies.
We must put a stop to military hazing.