Asian American Woman Commits Suicide at Boot Camp

March 30, 2007

NORTH POTOMAC, MD -- Less than two weeks into her army training, 22-year-old May Yuen apparently hung herself in the bathroom of her barracks and died. Her family says that they feel that the circumstances surrounding their daughter’s apparent suicide are suspicious and want a full investigation.

The U.S. Army is investigating the apparent suicide and will be giving the family a report after the investigation is completed, Maryland Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill, told the World Journal on March 14.

Yuen was born in New York to parents who were immigrants from Hong Kong. The family moved to the Washington D.C. area when Yuen was a young child. Yuen studied nursing at a community college.

Yuen’s father, Wei-Fong Yuen, said that he had initially opposed his daughter’s decision to enlist in the Army in 2006. But she insisted because she said it would help her pay for tuition and complete her degree. She also wanted to gain practical experience in her field, he said. On Feb. 15, she was assigned to training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

On Feb. 22, Yuen’s family said that she called to say that she had experienced difficulty breathing during a training exercise and reported her health concerns to a commanding officer. According to the family, the officer told Yuen that soldiers live in the army and die in the army.

Yuen suffered from asthma as a child but did not experience any asthma symptoms as an adult, according to Yuen’s aunt. She did not carry any asthma medication with her to Fort Leonard Wood, her aunt says.

On Feb. 27, a representative from the military went to the Yuen family home to notify them of their daughter’s death. Yuen’s father said that the representative said that Yuen was found in the bathroom around 9 p.m. on Feb. 26, apparently having hung herself with a belt. She was given emergency care but was pronounced dead shortly after 10 p.m. The family has not yet received any documentation or a report from the Army regarding their daughter’s case.

This just re-inforces other news stories we have heard over the last few years about the high number of suicides among Asian American females in varying age groups. This article says: "Asian American women between 15 and 24 had the highest number of suicides among all U.S. women in that age group in 2003, with about 3.5 deaths per 100,000 residents, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported in 2005. And Asian American females had the second highest rate of suicide in every other age group."

Yet, the thought of an Asian American woman in the military setting with ZERO support really makes me cringe. Ever since reading Sara Corbett's amazing piece in the NY Times magazine about women in the military I'm even more perplexed about how to process the whole thing. Really disturbing stuff.

As a woman the military does seem like a powerful place to work and move ahead -- especially when you need money for school, etc. My mother served as a Lt. Colonel is the U.S. Air Force -- as a doctor -- and had a very positive experience as a woman of color, but her job was very civilian. Does any one know other Asian American women in the military?




The army could care less. They just want soldiers for Bush's agenda.
Thanks for the story. It surely was enlightening and got me thinking. As to your question...The Army recognizes Asian American women's contribution on their website.And here's a 2002 web article:
There have been at least 3 suicides at Fort Leonardwood since my son went into BASIC training there in February. Is this really happening this often? Funny no one ever hears about it nationally. It seems this would be a topic that people would be interested in on a greater scale.JDPortland, OR
In the summer of 2000, my son was one of two Fort Leonard Wood recruits from Colorado to die by alledged suicide. Both young men had been subjected to two weeks or more of psychological abuse on their "unit or suicide watch" program before death. I was informed another FLW "unit watch" recruit hung himself in the latrene September 13, 2006.I would be most interested in talking with May Yuen's parents. They should have their investigative report from FOIA by now. Mine took a year. If possible, could someone help me contact them? Thanks