Chinese Community Commemorates Danny Chen

Around 100 people turned out on Private Danny Chen Way, a stretch of Elizabeth Street, to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the soldier’s death. (Photo by Chunxiang Jin via World Journal)

Oct. 3 was the sixth anniversary of Pvt. Danny Chen’s death. Many people in the Chinese community gathered at Private Danny Chen Way, a road named in Chen’s memory, in Chinatown to commemorate the Chinese-American soldier who committed suicide at age 19. Elizabeth OuYang, chair of the civil rights and advisory committees of OCA-NY Asian Pacific American Advocates which organized the rally, called for the public to remember Chen, who killed himself with a gun after being racially harassed by fellow soldiers when he was serving in Afghanistan, as well as to help avoid similar tragedies from happening in the tense political atmosphere under the Trump administration. She also called for the participants to help distribute a video segment Chen’s cousin Banny Chen made to honor him.

Danny Chen

Chen joined the military in 2011 when his patriotism prevailed over his mother’s opposition. He volunteered to be deployed to Afghanistan and became the only Asian in his unit. His background made him a target of verbal racism and physical hazing. In September of that year, nine months after he joined the military, Chen killed himself. The military attempted to deal with the incident like it was a normal suicide, and the Chinese community exercised persistent pressure on the military to charge the men implicated in the mistreatment of Chen. [Of the seven soldiers court-martialed, five received light sentences of confinement, while two were ordered to do hard labor. And eighth soldier was removed from the army through non-judicial punishment.]

OuYang said since President Trump took over the White House, hatred, racism and chaos have been on the rise in the U.S. The latest tragedies include the fatal conflict between white supremacists and their opponents in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the massacre in Las Vegas. In an environment like this, it is even more important to remember Pvt. Chen’s death.

(Photo by Chunxiang Jin via World Journal)

“There are many similar incidents in history when Asian-American soldiers were mistreated,” said Ouyang. “Now the population of Asians in the U.S. has been growing rapidly. We need to do more to protect our children from being hurt by discrimination and racism.” She also emphasized the significance of having impartial, fair, respectful leadership in the military.

Banny said his cousin has been living in his heart for the past six years. He and another cousin made a short film about the incident through which more people can learn what had happened. He hopes the video can help prevent other Asian youths from losing their lives to racism, hatred and violence. To see the video, go to tinyurl.com/dannychen2017. Banny also called on participants to help spread the film.

Close to a hundred students and teachers from P.S. 130 marched to Pvt. Danny Chen Way and presented flower bouquets to the picture of Chen. The participants also sang the John Lennon song “Imagine” as a prayer for peace. Ada Chen, a cousin of Pvt. Chen, hit a drum six times, to mark the six years since the tragedy.

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