Thomas Weaver had been taught to endure pain and ill-treatment during drill instruction while in the Third Recruit Training Battalion at Parris Island, South Carolina. He relayed how he and other Marines would endure punches, kicks, and choking during the drills. Weaver even shares how one instructor bashed his head against a doorway repeatedly, yet he remained silent on the matter as if it was normal and not a big deal. The ex-marine finally was pushed to the limit and could not handle covering up the constant abuse he endured, and the lies told by his superiors.
— Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe) September 29, 2016
The New York Times spoke with Weaver, who was inspired to share his story.
“We were taught the Marines is all about honor and honesty, and my superiors were constantly telling us all to lie about what was happening,” Mr. Weaver, 21, said in a recent interview at his parents’ home in rural northern Florida. “I had been really proud to join the Marines, but I was not proud of what we were doing.”
Testimonies such as Weaver’s have since prompted a Marine Corp investigation that revealed the abuse by drill instructors is widespread in what is known as the Thumping Third. An interview that involved divulging of explicit detail with Weaver, who has since been kicked out of the military, reveals how hazing by military instructors “infected all levels,” and the superiors would cover the actions by threatening the marines if anyone told.
The inquiry has led to the removal of three leaders in the corp, and the corp has shared that at least 20 Marines could face criminal charges. In a number of cases, Muslim recruits were hazed brutally. In one instance, a drill instructor tumbled a Muslim recruit in a hot clothes dryer, as noted in the report. That same instructor hazed another Muslim recruit repeatedly, which prompted the young man to leap to his death from the barracks shortly after.
Accusations that Weaver made have been impossible to corroborate, and the Marines have declined to comment on the claims. However, another Marine in the same battalion did acknowledge and confirm most of the details in Weaver’s account. He asked to remain unnamed for fear of being singled out.
Weaver went on to share the fear that he and the other Marines lived with.
“We were all scared, terrified. I wrote a lot of letters home about what was going on, but I tore them all up because I was afraid the drill instructors would read them.”
Although there have been safeguards added to the Marine Corps, hazing has been present and ongoing over the years. It is a fine line for the corp as the belief is that the training is meant to make some of the toughest fighters in the world, and therefore Marines need to experience harsh treatment to prepare them for the wars they will fight. Yet many officers are pushing for a more orderly force and strict regulations to protect against the abuses Weaver describes.
“It’s like, they are so focused on trying to make real Marines that they don’t see how they are hurting a lot of good recruits.”
Weaver experienced a severe depression following his experience and was too affected by what he saw at the boot camp to attend his next level of training. In September of 2015, he was hospitalized and on suicide watch. In December, Weaver was kicked out of the Marine Corps for not continuing training and was given an other-than-honorable discharge, which is used as a punishment and to highlight “bad troops.” Weaver has sought an upgrade on his dismissal, yet appeals have been unsuccessful as the Marine Corps states that depression does not qualify for a medical discharge and that the form of discharge he received is appropriate for troops who refuse to train.
— Rob McGarrah (@robmcgarrah) September 30, 2016
The Times relays the guidelines that instructors are meant to follow at such boot camps.
“Despite the common image of boot camp as a place where barking sergeants in broad-brimmed hats have nearly free rein to harass recruits, strict rules control what instructors can do. They cannot swear at recruits, hit them, kick them or even touch them unless it is to provide guidance during training that regulations call ‘corrective action.'”
There are additional limits on what instructors can expect and are not to cross the limit with “incentive training,” which usually involves extra push-ups, crunches, and other exercises. Weaver’s story clearly indicates that these guidelines were not followed.
[Featured Image by Carl Court/Getty Images]