Community activists and family members of Army private Danny Chen held a prayer vigil in Union Square Wednesday, one year after the Chinatown soldier committed suicide amid racist bullying and hazing.
There were about 50 people gathered early in the evening, many of them children, holding brightly colored signs with messages like, "We want justice now," "Military hazing must stop," and "This could be me" next to Chen's picture.
A former teacher of Chen told NBC 4 New York the community still felt frustrated by the lack of what they felt was appropriate punishment for the eight soldiers accused in Chen's hazing-related death.
"This community tries so hard to fight for justice,for a little boy we've known for a long, long time, since he was a kid in school." said Peggy Ng. "It hurts so much for a boy so passionate to lose his life like that."
Five soldiers have been sentenced in Chen's death so far. All were serving in Afghanistan when 19-year-old Chen shot himself Oct. 3, 2011, two months after he'd arrived there.
Spc. Thomas Porter Curtis IV was sentenced to three months in prison and demoted to private; Sgt. Adam Holcomb was sentenced to 30 days in prison, the loss of a rank and forfeiture of more than $1,100; Spc. Ryan Offutt was sentenced to six month in prison and demotion to private; Staff Sgt. Blaine Dugas was demoted one rank and sentenced to three months for using alcohol in a combat zone and dereliction of duty (he didn't have to serve because of time he previously served); and Sgt. Travis Carden was demoted one rank and ordered to forfeit two-thirds of his pay.
In the most recent court martial in the case, Curtis told the judge that racial slurs and physical punishment were normal for the Marines, in which he served for four years, but admitted there was no justification for his actions, according to the Fayetteville Observer.
Chen's family has said he was subjected to excessive sit-ups, push-ups, runs and sprints carrying sandbags, among other things, and that rocks were thrown at him to simulate artillery. He was also called racial slurs and was forced to work additional details.