In a letter home, a Jewish soldier in basic training at Fort Benning complained of religious discrimination and said a friend had heard platoon members saying they wanted to beat him up.
Days later, Pvt. Michael Handman was beaten so badly he had to be treated at a hospital. His father thinks the attack stemmed from an investigation of Handman's claims that instructors had harassed him and used anti-Semitic slurs.
“I have just never been so discriminated against/humiliated about my religion,” Handman wrote to his parents. “I just feel like I'm always looking over my shoulder. Like my battle buddy heard some of the guys in my platoon talking about how they wanted to beat the (expletive) out of me tonight while I'm sleeping.”
Handman's father contacted U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., who asked the Army to investigate.
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Handman, 20, of Atlanta wrote his parents he was heading to take a shower Sept. 24, four days after investigators interviewed him on the harassment, when a soldier called him to the laundry room, saying Handman's clothes were on the floor. Handman said he was sorting through the pile on his knees when a fist knocked him on his back.
“He kept hitting the side of my face, back of my head and temples for about 10-15 more seconds that I can remember,” Handman wrote. “After that I was knocked out. Next thing I remember is tasting blood and 2 pvts. (privates) standing over me calling my name.”
He was treated for a concussion and bruising to the left side of his face at the Army hospital on post and moved to a different platoon after he returned to training the next day, said Fort Benning spokeswoman Monica Manganaro.
Manganaro said two drill sergeants are being reprimanded for religious discrimination toward Handman after he began basic training Aug. 29.
She said one drill sergeant had called Handman “Juden,” German for Jews. Another demanded he remove his yarmulke, which Handman wore with his uniform, in a dining hall.