Military families deserve better than what the Guillen family had to endure and a Congressional investigation into Fort Hood's response to Guillen's disappearance and murder is warranted.
Fort Hood, Texas is a dangerous place for women in the military. The murder of Army Specialist (SPC) Vanessa Guillen is the latest tragic evidence of the violence on Fort Hood and other U.S. military bases.
Violence against women in the military and at Fort Hood has been going on for a very long time. Twelve years ago, in 2008, I wrote an article "Is There an Army Cover Up of Rape and Murder of Women Soldiers?" that detailed violence against women assigned to units from Fort Hood that were then located in Iraq. Eight women soldiers from Fort Hood, six from the Fourth Infantry Division and two from the 1st Armored Cavalry Division, had died of "non-combat related injuries" at Camp Taji, Iraq. Two had been raped immediately before their deaths and another raped prior to arriving in Iraq. Two women from Fort Hood had died of suspicious "non-combat related injuries" on Balad base, Iraq, and one was raped before she died. Four deaths of women assigned to units from Fort Hood had been classified as "suicides," and families of some of those women disagreed with Fort Hood's findings.
Now, 12 years later, the Army's handling of the investigation into SPC Guillen's disappearance was an affront to Guillen's family and to military women on Fort Hood. For three months the perpetrator of the murder of SPC Guillen roamed free on Fort Hood, capable of murdering other young women and showing such impunity that according to SPC Guillen's sister Mayra who had met him during one of her visits to Fort Hood, that "he laughed in my face. I had a very uneasy feeling about him."
She should have felt uneasy as she was face-to-face to her sister's brazen murderer who had killed her sister with a hammer in his workplace, dismembered her, attempted to burn her body before burying body parts in three holes covered with concrete on a highway embankment 30 miles from Fort Hood.
SPC Guillen's family was relentless in attempting to get information from Fort Hood leadership about what happened to her but to no avail. They held press conferences, enlisted the aid of organizations that offered a reward for information that would assist in finding SPC Guillen, called on the Texas congressional delegation for help but the Army was not forthcoming with information that led them to believe that a meaningful investigation into her disappearance was happening.
It wasn't until 10 weeks, after an intervention by U.S. Congresswoman Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Tex.) and numerous emotional press conferences by the family, that the family's lawyer Natalie Khawam finally was briefed by phone for four hours on July 1 by Fort Hood's Criminal Investigative Division (CID) and told that Guillen's blood had been found in a neighboring unit's weapons armory where she had gone on a day off to deliver paperwork on a weapon to a person who should have been an immediate "person of interest" in her disappearance.
Since April 22, when Vanessa Guillen was last seen alive, her disappearance and lack of information from Fort Hood to the family have led to questions of a cover-up. The family suspected that foul play was involved but was getting no information from CID as providing the family with any information about the progress of the investigation would "compromise the integrity of the investigation." Her disappearance and lack of information about the Army's investigation resulted in statements from other female soldiers who have gone public with their experiences of sexual harassment and assault in the military and many hashtags on social media to remind the public that Vanessa was missing and the family was getting no information from Fort Hood leadership.
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