Behind the Cover: Combat-zone hazing

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Lance Cpl. Harry Lew was with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, in Afghanistan when his life unraveled.

As first reported last week, Lew committed suicide in April after he was allegedly hazed for falling asleep on post. Struggling to handle the stress, he put the muzzle of his M249 Squad Automatic Weapon in his mouth and pulled the trigger, according to a report outlining a military investigation into his death.

In its print edition this week, Marine Corps Times outlines what happened in significantly more detail. Leveraging nearly 100 pages of documents and interviews with Lew’s father and Marine officials, I lay out what happened in a full-length cover story. Many details haven’t been previously reported, including a look at the history of hazing in the battalion.

This week’s Marine Corps Times also has a fantastic interview with reggae star Shaggy, who left the Corps as a private first class in the 1990s. The artist behind “Boombastic” and other songs, he made lance corporal more than once, but got busted down repeatedly. Still, he credits the Corps with a lot. It’s a great read.

To check it out, hit newsstands this week. Or, subscribe online and read it now.

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About Author

I'm a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.

14 Comments

  1. WHEN I WA SIN NAM, THERE WAS A USMC 0311 WHO COULD NOT STAY AWAKE AT NIGHT. WE JUST HAD HIM DO ALL THE S…T DEATILS WHICH HAPPEN ALL THE TIME. FROM GOING AFDTER MAPS AND TO OTHER LIKE CARYING EXTRA SUPPLIES.

    IT ALL WORKED WELL ONICE WE ALL UNDERSTOOD THE PROBLEM.

    HE COULD NOT STAY AWAKE WHEN IT WAS TIME TO GO ON WATCH. THAT WAS HOW WE HANDLED IT.

  2. The death of any of our troops is tragic, but think of how many of Lew’s fellow Marines might have been killed because he failed them on watch. The old Roman legions sentenced sleepers and deserters to be beaten to death by their own tentmates. That might be going further than is necessary; discipline of some kind, though, is a must. It would be best if systematically controlled, but officially sanctioned corrective violence is beyond us in these effeminate times. Thus we have hazing, to wildly varying degrees. I don’t know how the powers that be and the press can muster the gall to appear shocked.

  3. As a Marine Infantry veteran I can understand the hazing; taking care of your own so that you don’t have to involve permanent records for an otherwise “good Marine”. Though suicide is lamentable, and force preservation is tantamount, for the LCpl to take his own life showed he just did not have the mental fortitude to be in that location nor did his leadership give him the feeling that he could approach them on the issues. Also, once he allowed himself to fall asleep on watch – when his fellow troops are TRUSTING him to watch over them in a hostile environment as they are resting -he just as well killed them all. But for the grace of God or pure luck, no enemy was there to capitalize on that moment and act just to do that. There was a reason for the harsh Marine Corps boot camp of the past, mental toughnesss and weeding out the weak minded goes hand-in-hand with teamwork and removing individualism. It seems the mother’s of America and an increasingly PC minded country is why this individual got through and ergo sum…

  4. Why are there photos of this Lance C…wearing medals he didn’t earn and an NCO belt? I would bet this Marine had a host of mental problems besides just being a lazy Marine. Now, his connected relatives want to take down good Marines because they themselves failed to help Lew. Give me a break. Something really really stinks here.

  5. This is what happens when They stop beatin the shit out of Marines in boot camp. I had it done in 83 and we lost many “non hackers” I have been on this rant for years. The Corps is a place where few deserve to be, if you can’t hang you don’t belong! Political correctness has no freakin place in the Corps!!!

  6. If every marine who nodded off at some point while on guard duty in Viet Nam got executed then we would not of had enough personal to fight any battles.

  7. In 1965, I was at Edson Range during Boot Camp. After countless hours of ‘Snapping In’ in the early morning hours, I fell asleep with my cheek against my faithful M-14. There was a stunning impact and when my head cleared, I was minus a rear tooth. My D.I. ,which I believed was more shocked than I was, asked if I wanted to file a report. I told him that I deserved it but I asked for some warm salty water to rinse with. He saved my life in Vietnam because the urge to ‘Screw off’ and sleep in my bunker or fighting hole was always reminded of the boot smashing my face. (Plus the hole in the back of my mouth) LOL You are responsible for the Marines around you! Period!!! This shitbird didn’t deserve to take his life but he needed a radical awakening!! I still hold that D.I. in the highest regard and am personal friends with him!

    Semper Fidelis – Pro Patria

    Charles Patrick (Pat) Dugan USMC (Ret.) 0331/0321

  8. You actually make it seem really easy together with your presentation but I in finding this matter to be actually one thing which I feel I’d never understand. It sort of feels too complex and very large for me. I am having a look forward for your subsequent post, I will try to get the dangle of it!

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  10. A lot of you are sounding dumb as all hell or you’re from states like IN, MI, and the rest of them. For the sensible ones, thank you for serving. For the marine writing up there trying to sound verbose, please don’t stress yourself out. Some of you are so bloody dumb, you are spelling a simple word like together as togather. And,then my butt has to teach you how to write a paragraph in a basic college English class? PLEASE. Or you’re coming back from war so messed up then working at MacDonald’s a hundred years later. Just, PLEASE.

  11. Hazing is still going on by Marines back from Afghanistan to Marines being trained at 29 Palms. One pulled a knife on my friend being trained there. These guys defend our freedom then return to sabotage their own “brothers”! I feel ashamed supporting these assholes who are fucking over their own!

  12. Beating the shit out a boot for falling asleep on post, is not hazing, it is justice. This guy was responsible for the lives of his brothers and he couldn’t muster up the strength to stay awake?! In addition, he couldn’t muster the courage to take his ass whooping and make it right? Weak.

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