A new access gate installed at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, will serve as a stark reminder of Vanessa Guillén, a young woman whose life was senselessly taken on base last year, and the failures of the U.S. military to keep one of their own safe from sexual harassment.
On Monday (April 19), the Vanessa Guillén Gate was unveiled in honor of the 20-year-old U.S. Army Specialist who was murdered on April 22, 2020, inside an armory at the post by a fellow soldier.
“This gate will only [remind] all those soldiers who go in day and night that what happened shouldn’t happen ever again,” said Mayra Guillen, Vanessa Guillen’s older sister.
During the ceremony, Lt. Gen. Pat White, commander of Fort Hood, said an estimated 3,800 soldiers will drive past Guillén’s gate every day. The plaque on the gate features a photo of Guillén with an inscription.
“She was known for her discipline, physical fitness, technical expertise and professionalism,” it reads. “Her tragic loss…became a seminal event for the United States Army, resulting in significant institutional change. [The gate] stands as a constant reminder that America’s sons and daughters deserve our best leadership.”
The day before the gate ceremony, Guillén’s family was at the Texas Capitol with lawmakers making a case for Texas Senate Bill 623, The Vanessa Guillén Act, to be passed, so military members will not have to fear retaliation if they report sexual assault and harassment while enlisted.
“I can’t help but reflect on how [Vanessa] touched our lives,” State Sen. Carol Alvarado said at the Capitol. “Many of us will not forget the two months that she was missing – the military’s extremely slow reaction and lack of urgency. We called, we wrote letters, we marched, we protested, we put things on social media to elevate Vanessa. This ordeal has opened our eyes to the shocking gaps in the Army’s procedure–or lack thereof–when it comes to sexual harassment and assault.”
Guillén’s remains were found two months after she went missing. The man who murdered her killed himself when law enforcement attempted to arrest him. His girlfriend was taken into custody and charged for helping him dispose of her body.