Fort Hood is naming a new gate after Spc. Vanessa Guillen

Vanessa Guillen Protests
Photo credit Getty Images
By Connecting Vets
By Elizabeth Howe and Abbie Bennett

Spc. Vanessa Guillén's family visited Fort Hood -- the installation where Guillén was murdered -- this week to discuss the designs for a new gate that will be named in Guillén's honor. 

"Vanessa’s life was a catalyst for us to implement action to improve trust, discipline, and teamwork across our formations," a statement from Fort Hood commanding general Lt. Gen. Pat White read. 

"One of the reasons we invited the Guillén family today was to discuss and review design concepts and survey a proposed site of a gate we plan to name in Vanessa’s honor," the statement continued. "Their input is important for our final design that will come to fruition over the next few months."

The gate will lead to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment area where Guillén served and was allegedly killed by fellow soldier Spc. Aaron Robinson.  

"The gate is accessed by thousands of soldiers, civilians and families every day," White said. 

Responses to "Guillén Gate" have been mixed. 

The gate's proximity to Guillén's place of work and death has also conjured up less than ideal connections -- such as the ease with which Robinson could have moved Guillén's body off-post if such a gate had existed nearby.

Guillén's gruesome murder allegedly at the hands of a fellow soldier and possibly involving another soldier's estranged spouse ignited a firestorm of criticism for the Army and Defense Department's handling of her disappearance and sexual harassment and assault allegations in the military. Now, the military's "#MeToo" movement is blazing. 

In July, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley admitted that military leaders may have "missed signals" before Guillén's death. Women veterans and service members around the world began a grassroots campaign overnight, demanding justice for Guillén and for others like her. Investigations are ongoing at Fort Hood about how Guillén's case was handled. 

Guillén, 20, told her family before she went missing from Fort Hood in April that she was being sexually harassed by a fellow soldier. She went missing on April 22, last seen in the parking lot of her Regimental Engineer Squadron Headquarters, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. Her car keys, barracks' room key, ID and wallet were all found in the armory. 

On July 2, more than two months after she disappeared, Army Criminal Investigation Command and local law enforcement officials said human remains were found near a river. Days later, on July 5, Army officials confirmed the remains found in several shallow graves belonged to Guillén

"We are at a loss for words. This should never have happened. Our country has lost a beautiful young soldier because the system is broken," Natalie Khawam, the Guillén family's attorney, told Connecting Vets on July 5.

Missing Fort Hood soldier Spc. Vanessa Guillen was killed in armory, then dismembered, court documents say

Khawam and a criminal complaint filed in Texas court shed further light on Guillén's fate and the people officials suspect are responsible for her death. 

That criminal complaint describes Guillén's final moments according to witness statements, cell phone records and more. Khawam said Army officials told her Guillén and another soldier, Spc. Aaron Robinson, argued after Guillén discovered he was allegedly having an affair with the estranged wife of a former soldier, Cecily Aguilar. During that argument, Robinson allegedly bludgeoned Guillén to death with a hammer, concealed her body in a container and later disposed of her body near the Leon River with help from Aguilar, his married girlfriend. 

The night Guillén's remains were discovered, Robinson fled his barracks and Fort Hood, according to court documents. Aguilar helped law enforcement locate Robinson by calling and texting him. The next morning, as law enforcement "attempted to make contact," according to CID, Robinson "brandished a pistol and shot himself in the head," dying by suicide.

Robinson was a coworker of Guillén's, Fort Hood and CID officials said. He was not a supervisor in her chain of command and the two were not in a romantic relationship. Robinson was a small arms repairer with the Forward Support Troop, Engineer Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. 

Aguilar, 22, was arrested the day Robinson died and charged by civilian authorities with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence in connection with Guillén's disappearance, according to a Justice Department statement about a criminal complaint. If convicted, Aguilar faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.

Since her death, legislation has been filed in Congress in Guillén's honor, aiming to change how the military handles sexual harassment and assault. The Army is also working to change its AWOL policies to consider soldiers missing first, instead of "absent without leave." 

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