Memorializing Danny Chen
UB honors the one-year anniversary of a soldier’s suicide
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Danny Chen was dragged from his top bunk in the middle of the night, his head hitting the floor first, knocking him unconscious. He was dragged across 40 yards of gravel into the middle of a courtyard, scraping and bruising his back, while being taunted and physically attacked by his fellow soldiers. The Asian American teen was tormented relentlessly by superiors, and witnesses did nothing.
This was what Private Chen lived through serving in the U.S. Army.
On Oct. 3, 2011, Chen committed suicide in a guard tower on his base in Afghanistan. He was 19 years old.
Danny was accepted to UB but never attended the university.
Eight Greek organizations and 17 SA clubs are commemorating the serviceman and all soldiers who passed away because of bullying or hazing in the Danny Chen Project. The event, organized by senior urban policy major Nelson Yu of the Asian American Student Union (AASU), is set to raise awareness about anti-bullying and hazing in general. Yu said that the event, which will be held on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in Knox 20, is for everyone.
“This not only can happen to a soldier, but it can happen to a basketball player, a football player, a regular high school student – it can happen to any one of us,” Yu said.
When Yu became president of his club, he planned on doing more events to reach out to the public and connect with events like the Danny Chen Project.
Danny’s cousin, sophomore art major Banny Chen, attended part of the trial of Sergeant Adam Holcomb, who was found guilty on July 30, 2012 of assault and battery and two counts of maltreatment for using racial slurs and dragging Danny over 40 yards of gravel.
“[Witnesses] said they saw Danny the whole time and he wasn’t struggling, so they guessed that he was unconscious when he hit the ground,” Banny said. “When he got up, he was really dazed and didn’t know what was going on. Someone saw his back and took a picture, and he was roughed up and bruised.”
Banny said Danny was called names like “Ch*nk and “Dragonlady,” and he was told to yell out commands in Chinese, even though he was the only Chinese-American in the unit.
“Me and Danny, we would chat on Facebook every now and then – every time he got a chance to go to a computer,” Banny said. “He never talked about anything like that going on. To me, he was just like every other teenager. He wasn’t a bad guy or anything.”
At the time of the trial, Holcomb was a non-commissioned officer in the Army. Yu said Wednesday night’s participants partnered with the Organization of Chinese Americans from the New York City division to petition for 1,003 signatures – which signifies the date of Danny’s suicide – to discharge Holcomb from the Army. AASU has put together a second petition – directed to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta – attempting to stop military hazing.
AASU is a social-political club that deals with political issues in the media and hosts social events, according to Yu. He said this is the first time his club will be doing something this big, collaborating with other clubs and organizations, including Greek Life.
Matthew West, a junior psychology major and president of the Caribbean Student Association, supports the Danny Chen Project and hopes it will bring awareness and knowledge to the UB community.
“[CSA has] a motto for the year, and our slogan is called ‘Breaking Barriers,’ which is not only just getting familiar with those students who are at UB,” West said. “[We’re] working on ways of trying to get connections with people outside of the University at Buffalo community. Supporting the Danny Chen Project was one of our ways to try and build a bond between clubs.”
West plans on trying to do more things with his club that have a causal effect rather than events they must attend to fulfill SA requirements.
At Wednesday’s event, attendees will decorate paper bags with words of encouragement and messages of anti-hazing. The bags will then be taken out to the special event field near The Commons and lit with glow sticks.
Banny believes the event is going to be a good way to raise awareness for years to come.
“It is a good idea to remember [Danny],” Banny said. “It has put his death into use. I don’t want him to have died in vain.”