Published February 04, 2012
Eight sailors caught in a hazing incident aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard have received general discharges from the Navy after a young sailor sought medical attention for choking and other injuries from the ship's doctor.
The incident, apparently marking the sailor's start in a new department, involved wrestling, punching, choking, and horsing around, a senior U.S. Navy official told Fox News. Lt. Commander David McKinney told The Associated Press that the sailor was "choked out, evidently blacked out and had bruising."
A low-quality video recording taken by one of the now-discharged sailors shows two men in blue camouflage vigorously wrestling each other in what appears to be a dark locker room. The two in the video look to be evenly matched, although one man is holding the other in a headlock.
As soon as the man in the headlock loses his balance, he taps out against a locker, immediately ending the incident. He does not lose consciousness in the video, and walks away on his own.
The ship's captain launched an investigation into the "initiation" after getting wind of it from the doctor on the ship. Several sailors involved owned up to their participation in what they describe as roughhousing. They were discharged under the Navy's zero-tolerance hazing policy.
"Pretty cut and dry," from the Navy's perspective, according to the senior U.S. Navy official.
"When an incident like this happens, it's got to be taken care of," McKinney said. "It goes contrary to our core values."
The Navy did not release the names of the discharged sailors or the victim. But one of the sailors seen in the video, Charlie Davis, 20, of Dallas, told ABC10 News that the attack was just "play wrestling" and "boys being boys," and he and others had been through the same thing earlier in the day.
"A couple of the guys wrestled me down and had fun with me and then shook my hand and welcomed me aboard," he said.
Davis, who had in the Navy for just five months, told the TV station he's disappointed in himself, but believes the Navy's zero-tolerance hazing policy is too harsh.
"I buy into it for drugs and alcohol: that's zero-tolerance," said Davis. "But play wrestling with no malicious intent and for eight people's lives to be destroyed? You've got to be kidding me."
The action follows recent congressional hearings on hazing in the military, including the case of Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, who shot himself in a foxhole in Afghanistan last year after he was beaten, forced to do repeated pushups and fed mouthfuls of sand.
The Jan. 17 incident also occurred just two weeks before Democratic Rep. Judy Chu called for stronger measures to eliminate hazing.
"The highest military officials must make eliminating hazing a top priority. They must stop pretending there is no problem. None of this will change until the secretary of defense commits to eradicate the culture of hazing that is so ingrained within our troops," Chu, D-Calif., said Thursday.
All eight soldiers have the right to appeal their general discharges, but none has done so at this time. Since they did not receive dishonorable discharges, they will not lose their GI benefits and will still be able to say they served in the Navy.
Fox News' Peter Doocy and The Associated Press contributed to this report.