HOUSTON – Community members came together to honor murdered Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen. In southeast Houston, the 20-year-old Army Specialist’s story hits home.
On Thursday, Guillen’s family stood alongside community organizers outside a mural dedicated to Guillen at 7620 Gulf Freeway. The vigil was organized, by Vicki Cruz, a family friend and community advocate.
A women’s advocacy group, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, a movement against domestic violence of all, set up a booth to help bring resources to those in need.
Dr. Sergio Lira, an educator, was the keynote speaker at the vigil. He spoke about how to report abuse, recognize abuse and promote healing.
”Her story is the voice of our community; it’s to protect future victims,” Lira told KPRC 2.
Other guest speakers included Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.
“We, as a community, we love [the Guillen family],” Gonzalez said.
But the most powerful voice of the evening was the voice that came from Vanessa Guillen’s 16-year-old sister Lupe Guillen.
“We the people have a voice! We’re going to keep fighting for Vanessa...for all those victims of sexual harassment and for every single soldier experiencing abuse!” Lupe said.
Lupe spoke to the socially-distanced guests, expressing her disappointment that women have to carry concealed weapons to feel safe and secure. She said the Army failed her sister.
“I believe that if anyone would have spoken up for her, I believe I wouldn’t be standing here today,” Lupe Guillen said.
On Wednesday, the Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy sent an online message, expressing disappointment in the Army’s failure to stop sexual harassment.
“Army senior leaders are in receipt of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee’s report and are reviewing its findings,” McCarthy said in the video.
However, Vanessa Guillen’s family said it has been seven months since their loved one’s death and there has been no one held accountable.
“One in three women get sexually assaulted in the military, and yet Mr. McCarthy says Fort Hood has the highest sexual harassment... and yet he has done absolutely nothing to take action,” Lupe Guillen said. “How can you expect change if there’s no action!”