Advocates push for “I am Vanessa Guillen” bill to assist soldiers and military families
AUSTIN, Texas - It’s been about five months since Ft. Hood Specialist Vanessa Guillen was murdered. Instead of grieving at home, Guillen’s family is advocating for a bill in her name, "I am Vanessa Guillen." The bill would give soldiers the opportunity to report sexual assault or harassment claims to a third party instead of being handled internally.
20-year-old Guillen was reported missing from post on April 22nd and her remains were found near the Leon River in Bell County in late June. The time it took Fort Hood to conclude its investigation sparked outrage. Since then, leadership has changed. The commander of the US Army's Fort Hood Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt is being removed from his post as part of a previously-scheduled change in leadership and will no longer be transferred to Fort Bliss.
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Guillen’s cousin Uriel said he is pleased with Efflandt’s demotion but believes more changes need to be made at Fort Hood.
"We need to reconstruct that leadership and reinforce it," said Guillen. "Put people there that really care for the soldiers."
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Before Guillen was killed she told her family she was being sexually harassed on post. Guillen’s story has resonated with dozens of military personnel who have shared their own stories of sexual harassment and assault using the #IamVanessGuillen. Laura Acosta told a crowd of supporters her story outside of the Capitol Monday demanding justice not only for her but for many women and men who serve the U.S military.
Following Guillen's death, multiple soldiers stationed at Fort Hood have died or have been found dead. The most recent soldier laid to rest is Sgt Elder Fernandes who killed himself after accusing a superior of inappropriate conduct.
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Vanessa Guillen’s mother clutched a picture of her daughter and cried, "How many have died from Fort Hood, how many will die?" The pain and anger in her voice could be felt in the crowd. Gloria Guillen is demanding justice and congressional investigation and the "I am Vanessa Guillen" bill.
Lupe Guillen’s younger sister said her family has received support from members of Congress, legislators, and President Trump but they have not heard from Governor Greg Abbott. The Guillen family is calling on the governor to show support for their bill and to shut down Fort Hood.
"What happened to Vanessa can happen to anyone else," said Lupe Guillen. "This is not a race issue this is not a political issue, it’s not a sexuality issue. It’s a human issue."