Joseph Rocha Hub




Navy Veteran Joseph Rocha Slams Misleading AP Story About Abuse, Hazing at Hands of Military Supervisor

AP writer Kimberly Dozier writes about the forced retirement of dog handler Michael Toussaint, who supervised and systematically hazed Petty Officer Third Class Joseph D. Rocha, who was discharged under 'DADT', and other service members.

Writes Dozier: "The Navy has admitted that it was wrong when it accused dog handler Michael Toussaint of vicious hazing that singled out a gay sailor under his command at kennels in Bahrain."

Read all our background on Rocha's story HERE.

Rocha writes: Joseph-rocha

"AP's conclusion is wrong. After an official Navy investigation found 93 instances of abuse and misconduct under Toussaint's command, many of which entailed violations of military law, a second investigation found flaws in the first investigation. There were indeed flaws in the first investigation. But that is not the same as concluding that Toussaint is innocent or that the Navy believes that it was wrong in accusing him.

To the contrary, the Navy has concluded that the evidence, including testimony from multiple members of my unit, shows that Toussaint is guilty of creating a highly intimidating climate of fear that involved systematic abuse. This is why, of course, it is forcing him to retire...

Rocha points out five factual errors in the AP story and adds, "Toussaint's new letter of censure from the Navy reads: 'As the leading chief petty officer, you set a poor example by engaging in conduct that clearly violates the Navy's prohibitions against hazing and fraternization... As a result of your poor example, your subordinates emulated this behavior by taking part in their own hazing activities...'"

Finally, Rocha says, "The AP story called my integrity into question, but I was not given a chance to respond to its numerous, incorrect claims. AP released a brief version of its story titled "Navy admits wrong call on accusing dog handler" without even contacting me...The bottom line is this. My commander created a climate of fear in my unit which included a pattern of abuse, much of it directed at me. I did not complain about any of this, but an investigation was launched nonetheless when another unit member notified authorities. Multiple members of my unit testified about the abuse during the investigation. Although there were flaws in that investigation, there was more than enough evidence for the Navy to censure my commander for hazing, to force him to retire and to state, officially, that he does not meet the standards expected of a leader. The U.S. Navy did the right thing in this case. AP did not."

Senior Chief Must Retire Despite Hazing Probe [ap]
AP's Misleading Report on Navy Reversal: I Did Not Ask for Anti-Gay Hazing [rocha huff post]


Letter from the Father of Joseph Rocha, Discharged Under DADT

Josephrocha

With the Pentagon’s family survey now in the field, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national, legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), will release a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones. SLDN is urging supporters of repeal to call, write, and schedule in-district meetings with both their senators as the defense budget, which contains the repeal amendment, moves to the floor just weeks from now. www.sldn.org/action.

August 26, 2010

Hon. Jeh C. Johnson
General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

General Carter F. Ham
Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

Dear Mr. Johnson and General Ham:

Joseph-rocha I am a heavy machinery truck driver; I have been all of my life. A blue collar American who raised my son, Joseph Rocha, in a Roman Catholic home with strong Spanish values, after his mother lost custody for drug abuse. Throughout school Joseph turned out to be an awarded scholar, athlete and leader. I did my best to provide a good home for him. But, I wasn’t prepared for my only boy to turn out gay.

Early on in his senior year, at 17, he left the house on one condition: that he never return.

I learned through my wife that he was excelling quickly in the military. He was promoted twice in his first year and was hand-picked for explosive detection school. We had no idea that during his 28 months in the Middle East, he was being abused by his superiors because he wouldn’t tell them if he was gay or not. He only ever called home to tell my wife he loved working with the dogs and about his aspirations of becoming an officer.

He sent gifts to his kid siblings for every single holiday and called them religiously. He was a hero to my girls. I struggled through our silence knowing that I was missing out on my son. As it sank in that Joseph might be injured or killed in the service, it became clear how irrelevant who he wants to love is. On a phone call home to congratulate me for my birthday, I told my son for the first time that I was truly proud of him and asked him to live his life for himself, not for me or anyone else.

After receiving a Naval Marine Corp Achievement Medal for his service overseas and being accepted to Naval Academy Preparatory School to go on to the United States Naval Academy and earn a commission, Joseph was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Recently, just after his mother’s death, I asked him what he would be doing this year when he becomes the first in our family to graduate from college. I was surprised when he said that he wants to serve again. I asked him why he would go back after all they did to him. I asked him if he was prepared to go back to the Middle East. He replied that he was never meant to be done serving.

Joseph contributed to my family and to the families of each of his co-workers: loyalty, respect and service. My son had always lead by example and in coming out he has taught his siblings pride and his favorite value, integrity.

I am proud of my son and it makes me sick now to read the Navy documents detailing the abuse he stomached in order to try and save his career. He is a brave young man and a patriot. I know now first hand that the old ways are not always right and I ask that you encourage your superiors to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Please allow my son, Joseph C. Rocha, and countless like him, to resume their military careers.

Sincerely,

Jose J. Rocha

CC: U.S. Sen. Carl M. Levin
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. John S. McCain
Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman
Member, Senate Armed Services Committee


Story from the Frontline of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell':
Former Naval Petty Officer Third Class Joseph Rocha

Joseph-rocha  

"Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama” is a new media campaign launched to underscore the urgent need for congressional action and presidential leadership at this critical point in the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). 

Frontline_final02  As we approach the markup of the Defense Authorization bill in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, SLDN and a coalition of voices supporting repeal, will share open letters to the President from a person impacted by this discriminatory law. We are urging the President to include repeal in the Administration’s defense budget recommendations, but also to voice his support as we work to muster the 15 critical votes needed on the Senate Armed Services Committee to include repeal. The Defense Authorization bill represents the best legislative vehicle to bring repeal to the president’s desk. It also was the same vehicle used to pass DADT in 1993. By working together, we can help build momentum to get the votes! We ask that you forward and post these personal stories.

Also - update: Obama deals "devastating blow" against DADT repeal advocates

*****

May 3, 2010 JosephRocha  

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

After the recent letter by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recommended the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” be delayed, this is my plea to you on the behalf of the soldiers serving in silence to end this law now:

I never wanted anything more in my life than to be a career officer. My entire childhood I was exposed to abuse, violence, and crime. I came out of it all with a simple, yet overwhelming desire to serve. When my first attempt at getting into the Naval Academy failed, I waited restlessly until I turned eighteen. I enlisted on my birthday and set off to prove myself to the Academy. I was eager to leave the cruelty of my past and join a true family.

I knew I was gay, but it was irrelevant to me then. I was determined to join an elite team of handlers working with dogs trained to detect explosives. As I studied hard to pass exams and complete training, I was convinced that the current law would protect me. I knew that based on merit and achievement I would excel in the military.

I never told anyone I was gay. But a year and a half later while serving in the Middle East, I was tormented by my chief and fellow sailors, physically and emotionally, as they had their suspicions. The irony of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is that it protects bigots and punishes gays who comply.

Shop talk in the unit revolved around sex, either the prostitute-filled parties of days past or the escapades my comrades looked forward to. They interpreted my silence and total lack of interest as an admission of homosexuality. My higher-ups seemed to think that gave them the right to bind me to chairs, ridicule me, hose me down and lock me in a feces-filled dog kennel.

Continued, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Story from the Frontline of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell':
Former Naval Petty Officer Third Class Joseph Rocha" »


Naval Officer Who Supervised Hazings Forced to Retire

Rocha

I've been periodically posting about the case of Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Rocha (below), and the hazing he experienced while serving under Michael Toussaint, his unit chief in Bahrain. 

Toussaint Said Rocha of the hazing: "My Navy peers often harassed me, insisting the extra training I did with Marines was a search for sex partners. Once, I was hog tied to a chair, rolled across the base, and left in a dog kennel with feces. I was forced to simulate sex acts, on camera, to armed service members with trained attack dogs in the room. Men with hoses sprayed me down in full uniform."

The Virginian Pilot reports:

"Toussaint, a dog handler assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group 2 in Virginia Beach, has also received a letter of censure from the Secretary of the Navy. The letter will become part of his permanent military record, said Cmdr. Elissa Smith, a Navy spokeswoman at the Pentagon. Smith said Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, canceled Toussaint’s enlistment extension, which will force him to leave active duty and retire in January. He won’t necessarily be able to retire as a senior chief: Navy officials ordered that he be subject to 'retirement pay grade determination,' in which the secretary of the Navy will decide at what pay grade he may retire. Smith could not speculate on what that might mean, except to say that it 'has the potential to significantly impact Senior Chief Toussaint's retirement pay.' The announcement follows Roughead’s decision last month to re-examine the handling of an investigation into hazing and abusive behavior at a Navy dog-handling unit in Bahrain in 2005 and 2006. Toussaint commanded the dog handlers and kennel until March 2006."

Rocha appeared on CNN late today to discuss the announcement. Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Naval Officer Who Supervised Hazings Forced to Retire" »


Towleroad Guide to the Tube #553

LT. COLONEL VICTOR FEHRENBACH: Appears on Rachel Maddow's show to discuss 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' discharge.

NAVY VET JOSEPH ROCHA: Rocha and Rep. Joe Sestak discuss Rocha's hazing.

DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL: MSNBC's Countdown takes up the issue with guest Dan Savage.

NATIONAL EQUALITY MARCH: A montage video from activist Sean Chapin.

For recent Guides to the Tube, click HERE.


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