Remembering Vanessa Guillen on Veterans Day
Vanessa Guillen’s case highlighted violence and sexism in the military on U.S. soil. Today, she is remembered.
Nearly seven months since the killing of Vanessa Guillen, Fort Hood officials have announced plans to honor the fallen soldier at the on-base post where it is believed she was killed.
On Veterans Day 2020, Guillen’s family was again invited by army officials to the base, asking for input on a design for a gate that is to be named after their daughter and sister.
“The gate we designated leads to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment area where Vanessa served,” read a statement from Fort Hood officials on Tuesday. “The gate is accessed by thousands of soldiers, civilians and families every day.”
The decision not only resurfaces Guillen’s case in the aftermath of a presidential election and a global pandemic, but also returns the public eye on Fort Hood itself.
On Sept. 1, Fort Hood Commander, Maj Gen. Scott Efflandt was removed from his role, but it was merely a performative attempt at justice, as Efflandt will remain at Fort Hood as a deputy commander, maintaining the toxic environment that has thrived under his command.
Since Guillen’s disappearance, it was also announced on Sept. 8, that two congressional subcommittees will launch an investigation into the chain of command at Fort Hood following a spike in deaths.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee's Subcommittee on National Security and the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personell is currently gathering information that could explain how Fort Hood has allowed the series of deaths to occur, and how they have responded to reports of sexual harassment and abuse.
But above all, Veterans Day brings back the family’s trauma.
“Being here brings back so much. I can’t help it,” tweeted Guillen’s sister, captioning a photo of a memorial dedicated to Vanessa.
Being here brings back so much. I can’t help it. pic.twitter.com/pO3CszUJQF
— Mayra Guillen (@mguilen_) November 10, 2020
Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) has been working tirelessly since Guillén’s case gained traction to bring her family some semblance of justice. In September, she presented the Bipartisan “I Am Vanessa Guillén Act,” a bill intended to transform the Military’s response to sexual violence and missing servicemembers.
“On this #VeteransDay, I’m thinking of Vanessa Guillén & everything her family had gone through to get #JusticeForVanessaGuillen. I won’t stop fighting until we pass the #IAmVanessaGuillenAct & it becomes the law of the land. This bill is for all of our women & men in uniform.” Garcia wrote on Twitter.
On this #VeteransDay, I’m thinking of Vanessa Guillén & everything her family had gone through to get #JusticeForVanessaGuillen.
I won’t stop fighting until we pass the #IAmVanessaGuillenAct & it becomes the law of the land. This bill is for all of our women & men in uniform. pic.twitter.com/IyxNZtp8VM
— Rep. Sylvia Garcia (@RepSylviaGarcia) November 11, 2020
Guillén, 20-years-old, was last seen in late April. The months that followed saw delays by officials from the Army and Fort Hood to investigate her disappearance as the Guillen family raised public awareness about her case. This ranged from social media advocacy to in-person demonstrations and protests.
Guillen’s remains were found near a river 20 miles outside of the Texas town of Killeen at the end of June.
When police confronted fellow Fort Hood soldier and suspect, Army Spc. Aaron Robinson during the investigation, he fatally shot himself before authorities could detain him for questioning.
An accomplice has been arrested, though her trial has been postponed.
Fort Hood has made headlines multiple times in 2020 because of a number of cases of violence by and against soldiers on-base.