Your Marine Corps

These 2 female Marines are in the brig on assault charges. Both claim trauma from rape

On Veterans Day 2020, a small group of activists and Marines’ family members gathered outside the Marine Barracks in Washington in the hopes of bringing attention to what they saw as injustice.

Two female Marines are in the brig “for assault charges after experiencing flashbacks due to being raped,” a press release from the Military Sexual Trauma Movement group advocating for the women said.

In April, Marine Cpl. Thae Ohu allegedly attacked her then-boyfriend with a knife and threatened to kill him. She later allegedly violated a protective order.

Pfc. Celeste Largo, an aviation supply clerk assigned to Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31 on Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, has been charged with attempted assault, unauthorized absence, willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer, failure to obey an order and three counts of assault, the Marine Corps told Marine Corps Times on Friday.

The families of both Marines claim their chain of commands did not give them the Marines the support they needed.

“Female Marines are the best of the best, but we also get treated like the worst of the worst,” Janelle Marina Mendez, Marine veteran and CEO of the Military Sexual Trauma Movement, said at a Wednesday press conference. “How can America trust the USMC to protect our citizens when they can’t even prevent workplace violence against female Marines?”

The Marine Corps has yet to respond to Marine Corps Times about the allegations about Ohu.

9 UCMJ violations

Ohu, an administrative specialist assigned to the Marine Corps Intelligence Schools in Virginia Beach, Virginia, was born in a refugee camp on the Burma-Thailand border, according to her family.

The Marine’s father, Ahr Yu, was a fighter against the military dictatorship that then ran the country. He brought his daughters to America for a chance of freedom, he said at Wednesday’s press conference.

His fight for justice later inspired all his daughters to serve in the military.

“He raised us to fight, to survive, to do the right thing,” Ohu’s sister Pan Phyu, who currently is stationed in San Diego with the Navy, told Marine Corps Times in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

Ohu’s fighting spirit did her well in the Marine Corps, where she rose to sergeant before an alleged sexual assault by a superior in her chain led to a sharp decline in her mental health and later an arrest for assault and attempted murder, her family claims.

Ohu’s case has risen to notoriety in recent months as the Marine Corps moves forward nine violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including aggravated assault on an intimate partner and attempted murder, the Virginian Pilot reported.

On April 5, Ohu allegedly attacked her then-boyfriend, Michael Hinesley, with a knife she grabbed from the kitchen, and threatened to kill him.

Later that month Ohu returned to Hinesley’s home, allegedly violating a military protective order, the Virginian Pilot reported. Ohu has been confined at the Navy Consolidated Brig since June 19.

Hinesley was not harmed in either incident and has argued for the Marine Corps to drop all charges against Ohu and discharge her honorably from the Corps.

“What happened during evening hours of April 5, 2020 was nothing short of a major mental breakdown in Corporal Thae Ohu,” Hinesley wrote in a letter to her command as part of a victim’s statement, which he later sent to Marine Corps Times.

In the letter, Hinesley claims that Ohu’s declining mental health was triggered when a “superior” sexually assaulted Ohu while the Marine was stationed in Okinawa, Japan.

The issue was compounded when her chain of command failed to provide Ohu the support she needed, he claimed.

“She was placed in a hostile work environment with Marines who knew of her medical privacy and gossiped about her,” the letter said.

Phyu said Ohu was contemplating suicide after her sexual assault and being failed by her chain of command.

The sailor is also a survivor of military sexual assault and said she would be in the same spot as Ohu if it was not for one member of her chain of command that stepped up and provided her the support she needed.

“I am Thae, the only reason I didn’t end up where she is, is because I had one person, one,” Phyu said.

Ohu’s trial is scheduled for March, but the notoriety of her case has led the Corps to seek a gag order, preventing “counsel, witnesses, or parties to this case to continue communicating with the press,” The Virginian Pilot reported.

The order was supposed to be argued on Thursday, the newspaper reported. Marine Corps Times has not yet confirmed if it was argued yet or not.

The Marine Corps has not yet replied to requests for comment by the Marine Corps Times, but told the Virginian Pilot, “due to regulations governing what information can be released regarding matters pending at court-martial, we are not allowed to discuss the substance of any upcoming motions.”

‘Nobody is listening’

Largo’s story bears several similarities to that of Ohu, according to her family.

Largo, the son of a Marine and a descendent of a Navajo code talker, was off to a promising career, her mother LaRae Mescale, told Marine Corps Times Wednesday.

She shipped to boot camp in November 2018 and was her platoon’s guide for a short time while there, her mother said.

But that changed overnight when she allegedly was assaulted by a member of her chain of command.

“She was doing really, really, well when she got in the Marines … but all the sudden overnight she was like I don’t want to be here,” Mescale said.

The Marine reported the sexual assault to her unit, but failed to receive the support she needed, Mescale said.

“She said ‘I need to make myself better, I need to clear my mind, nobody is listening, nothing is getting done,’” Mescale said.

The Marine told her mother she was going fishing to help clear her mind.

When Mescale tried to call her daughter back, Largo did not pick up the phone.

She kept calling but Largo never picked up. Mescale knew her daughter’s attacker was still on the base and with the story of Spc. Vanessa Guillen fresh on her mind she started to panic.

Eventually she got a hold of a Marine in her daughter’s unit to find out that her daughter was sent to the brig at the Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, facing assault charges.

Largo is still in pretrial confinement awaiting an arraignment scheduled for Tuesday, Maj. Binford Strickland told Marine Corps Times on Friday.

Largo dropped an option to be administratively separated from the Corps, Mendez told Marine Corps Times Friday, and is going to fight the charges.

“Celeste’s family called her after the press conference and Celeste pulled out," Mendez said. “Since she now knows people are fighting for her she wants to fight the charge.”

Editor‘s note: This headline has been updated to say ‘assault charges’ instead of ‘sexual assault charges.’

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