Congresswoman Judy Chu calls for military hazing hearings; her nephew was hazed, committed suicide

Kitty Felde/KPCC

Rep. Judy Chu calls for congressional hearings on military hazing, Feb. 2, 2012.

Democratic Congresswoman Judy Chu is calling on "the highest levels in the military" to put a stop to hazing. The Democrat from El Monte has firsthand experience: her nephew committed suicide after hazing by fellow Marines.

Lance Corporal Harry Lew fell asleep on sentry duty in Afghanistan last April. His commanding officer yelled at him, but fellow Marines delivered the punishment.

Chu says they "berated him and ordered him to dig a foxhole and to perform pushups, crunches and planks while wearing his heavy, full body armor and a 25-pound sandbag. They stomped on his back and legs, they kicked and punched him and they poured the entire contents of a sandbag onto his face and in his mouth." The punishment lasted more than three hours. Twenty minutes later, Lew shot himself with an automatic weapon.

The court martial judge found no link between the punishment and the suicide. The leader of the punishment team received a sentence of 30 days.

Chu cited a long list of other hazing incidents in the military. "I was very startled to find that statistics aren’t even done on how much hazing is done."

Late last year, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the military “will not tolerate” hazing. Chu said the Marines have an anti-hazing policy and training, but it isn’t enough. "There’s really nobody that will actually take the step to say 'stop this.'”

The Democrat from El Monte called for congressional hearings. The head of the House Armed Services Committee, Buck McKeon of Santa Clarita, has not responded. Neither has Darrell Issa of Temecula, head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

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