Pictured: Democratic leadership at a rally for Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen in Killeen, Texas. From left to right: State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, Democratic candidate for district 54 Likeithia Williams, State Rep. César Blanco and State Rep. Victoria Neave
It has now been more than three months since army soldier Vanessa Guillen first disappeared off of her Fort Hood base in Texas. Her remains were then found on June 30.
Guillen’s family said their daughter was sexually harassed at Fort Hood, but was afraid to voice her allegations to the chain of command. Now the base is conducting an investigation into the matter.
The Army will also conduct a few investigations — one that examines Guillen’s death and another in which five civilian experts will lead an independent review of the command climate and culture at the Fort Hood army base.
“We have to listen in order to create enduring change,” Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said in a statement.
The panel will “conduct interviews with military members, civilians and other members of the local community.”
Besides Guillen, there have been at least seven soldiers stationed at Fort Hood who have died or been found dead since March (including one who took his life after becoming a suspect in Guillen’s disappearance).
Last week, Vanessa Guillen’s mother, Gloria Guillen, met with President Trump asking for an inquiry as well as support for a bill that would change how sexual harassment is reported about in the military. Introduced by the Guillen family and family lawyer, Natalie Khawam, the #IamVanessaGuillen bill would allow active service members to report sexual harassment and assault claims to third party agencies instead of their line of command.
Back in the state, besides posting a condolence message, the representative for Guillen’s district, GOP Rep. Brad Buckley, has largely been silent on the case.
Meanwhile, Buckley’s Democratic opponent for district 54, Likeithia “Keke” Williams, has been in close contact with Guillen’s family. As a combat veteran of 24 years and activist for sexual abuse, Williams has voiced leadership concerns about Guillen’s case.
“How her life was taken in that matter hits to the core of any soldier, because she is seen as a sister,” Williams said. “In the military we always say, yes we have our blood family but the family that you build bondage with, we call them our battle buddies. It’s like nothing else. It’s an unbreakable bond.”
Williams has also been in attendance of numerous events in memory of Guillen, including a rally for justice that took place in Killeen, TX, on July 24, where other state representatives were also in attendance, including State Reps. Eddie Rodriguez (HD 51), César Blanco (HD 76) and Victoria Neave (HD 107).
“Just [them] showing up and showing support, then presenting a flag that flew over the Capitol for the [Guillen] family meant so much,” Williams on their support. “This isn’t even their district.”
Additionally, Rep. Blanco announced that he would file the Vanessa Guillen Act in the Texas House of Representatives that would “protect victims/witnesses of sexual assault from retaliation for reporting sexual assault and ensure justice is served.”
“We always hear a soldier say ‘We’ll never leave a fallen comrade,’ Williams remarked. “What happened to [Guillen]—we need to make sure it never happens to another soldier. We’re the guardian of the American way of life.”
Photos: Likeithia Williams
Sarah brings more than seven years of experience as a multimedia journalist to Texas Signal, where she serves as our Podcast and Video Producer, managing the company's three podcasts, including SignalCast, TexMix Podcast and Three Righteous Mamas, and assisting with copy-editing and social media as well. Sarah is also the Editor-at-Large at Brown Girl Magazine, and an avid artist, TV/film enthusiast and cook. Sarah graduated from The University of Texas at Austin, majoring in Journalism, and received a Master's degree in Mass Communication from the University of Houston.