Army Charges 8 in Wake of Death of a Fellow G.I., Pvt. Danny Chen. Read more.
“You cannot wrap a fire with paper: the truth will come out.”
— Chinese aphorism
Reading this article really made me angry. As a military wife, I have seen my fair share of racist jokes and taunting, but I constantly realize how starkly unaware my understanding is of military life when compared to my husband’s. I don’t experience the same Navy life as he does, as he’s in Prototype from 6am–8pm, daily. But I hope my own understanding of what it means to part of the military life can shed some light for others.
We’re both Filipino American, raised in Carson, California, and do not know how to speak Tagalog. As byproducts of public education, we were taught since the first grade about Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and American Manifest’s Destiny. We were taught how to talk American, how to be American, how to live American; and yet, despite all of this, we still are foreigners to many, we still get the Ching-Chong jokes from my husband naval peers, still get the “You’re Mexican because you’re dark” (directed to my husband), and “You’re a Chinese doll/geisha” because I’m lighter skinned. The reality of military life is that when most enlisted men are bunched up together in close quarters, they generalize themselves and tend like to act like a “boy’s club,” detailing all the homophobic, racist, and sexist jokes you could think of. There are many military friends we have that surpass this generalization, this disappointment found in the military, but there are others who, when together with their usual suspects, become that stereotype for the sake of assimilation and acceptance. This is why we chose to live off base, and why we chose to spend our valuable time with others who share our values in human dignity, respect and maturity.
The difference with our experience and Private Chen’s is that he couldn’t just walk out and choose who he wanted to spend time with. He was stuck. He was stuck with his command and Company C, and was forced to perform hazing activities that would make any Quentin Tarantino movie look like child’s play. My husband is also a Nuclear Machinist Mate and is still in his final phase of schooling, so he has retained some liberties that are akin to civilian life. Lastly, he is surrounded by (per the Navy’s bragging) the smartest enlisted bunch in the military.
Even though the number one cause of death in the Naval Nuclear Propulsion program is suicide, this program is doable and it isn’t as hard as being deployed to the Middle East. It is not easy for me to relay the measure of stress my husband deals with in this program, and it is not easy for me to transcribe the numerous racist and assumptive commentaries found in military life. There are many people in this program who are from all walks of life and who do carry the appropriate amount of respect for others and their peers. But what pisses me off the most about the military life is how ignorance and bigotry permeates its culture, and how easily higher ups would cover up scenarios akin to Private Chen’s because of bad press. His story makes me angry because I know and have experienced a slice of what he lived while he was still alive, and it pisses me off that something like this could happen.
I’m tired of the Ching-Chong jokes. I’m tired of the dumb military wife assumptions. I’m tired of being labeled Mexican because I’m Filipino or hearing my culture’s food is gross or disgusting because it looks different than American cuisine. I’m tired of hearing that my husband is weak because he’s Asian or that he’s a Filipino girly-boy. I’m fucking sick of some people’s ignorance, and I hope to God that there will be justice in this world for people who constantly withstand this incessant and nonsensical invectives that could lead to abuse, negligence, and even death.
I am a Navy wife and I am proud to be part of the US Navy. The Navy has given us the ability and privilege to see the world, to travel, and to make our life our own. May our cries for justice be heard by the military, and I cannot wait for the day when our skin color or the shape of our eyes will no longer be the objects of others’ sick enjoyment.
Lastly, I give my heartfelt condolences to Danny Chen’s family. My heart reaches out to them. Our families sacrificed so much to come to America and to give us, their children, a better life, and it breaks my heart to hear that their sacrifices were in vain. I hope it will not end in vain. I hope Danny Chen’s vigilant life will become a beacon of hope, a warning call that lights the way for all Asian Americans and all people of different colors in the military. Don’t let his life end in vain, US Army. Prosecute those 8 men involved with this horrendous scandal, and if the prosecutions turn out to be true, I hope you prosecute them to the fullest counts of their crimes.