A somber anniversary, as friends and family pay tribute to a young soldier whose dreams of serving his country was cut short. It’s been nine years since Private Danny Chen was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a guard tower. Those who knew him, say they are still grieving.
“These past nine years have not been easy. I would say it’s been getting easier but it’s still difficult. Almost everything reminds us of Danny," said Banny Chen, cousin of Danny Chen.
Chen was an American soldier, who grew up in Chinatown. His loved ones say he tried to join the U.S. Army three times before he was finally accepted.
He served in Afghanistan, but his military career and life ended abruptly. Chen was racially harassed and beaten, investigators say, by his fellow soldiers. The 19-year-old then shot himself on October 3, 2011. Every anniversary, this community takes a moment to commemorate him.
“We just want to make sure that Danny Chen is not forgotten. It is so important for people to remember what happened to him," said City Council member Margaret Chin.
Organizers say they hope the commemoration for Danny Chen brings attention to other similar cases.
“Twenty-eight soldiers in Fort Hood Texas, United States, we are not even talking about Afghanistan, have died in the past year alone. Only two of those 28 have died in combat. What is going on in Fort Hood," asked Elizabeth OuYang, an organizer for the event.
The drum was struck 28 times during the ceremony, that’s the age Chen would be right now if he were alive.
The group is asking Washington for a thorough and transparent investigation into the deaths of soldiers who were subjected to bullying and hazing by other military members. They say a culture change is needed in the armed forces.
“When our sons and daughters volunteer to serve this country in the military they deserve love and support, not discrimination not hazing not bullying," said Chin.
A change would come too late for Danny, but the family say it is the only way to prevent others from experiencing this type of loss.