In late November, Sgt. Andrew Van Bockel became the seventh soldier to be found guilty in relation to the death of Pvt. Danny Chen. However, what should’ve been hailed as a victory and justice served was little more than lip service. What was Van Bockel’s punishment for being the ringleader of the harassment Chen faced? Two reductions in rank and 60 days of extra labor — in actuality, only 15 after credit received from his time in confinement during the court martial.
I’m fairly certain that if this happened outside the military, if someone drove someone else to suicide after repeated verbal and physical abuse, they’d be sentenced to a lot more than what truly amounts to a pay cut and some community service.
Van Bockel wasn’t even discharged.
It’s time for reform in the military. Treating minority soldiers like second-class citizens is unacceptable. The convicted soldiers in question weren’t even apologetic during their trials.
Sgt. Adam Halcomb, one of the first soldiers sentenced in Chen’s case, never even apologized directly to Chen’s parents for his role in Chen’s death. According to military law, the sergeant wasn’t required to testify at his own court martial.
Throughout his trial, Van Bockel argued that Chen was a lousy soldier and was undergoing “corrective training.” He didn’t show any remorse. It’s as if Van Bockel didn’t realize or even acknowledge that he did anything wrong.
Allowing an environment that fosters this kind of opinion and creates this kind of soldier is unacceptable. It’s bad for the military, bad for America, and goes against everything that the United States has ever represented.
Army prosecutor Maj. Stephen Hernandez put it best.
“Pvt. Danny Chen was an American soldier,” Hernandez said. “He was not a dragon lady, an egg roll, a chink, or a gook. He was an American soldier. If you let it slide, these soldiers will believe it’s okay.” (end)