Spc. Vanessa Guillen's family was joined by a hundred other advocates this morning on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for a rally followed by a march to the White House to present President Donald Trump with the "I Am Vanessa Guillen" bill.
"We're going to march from here to the White House. Everyone who doesn't support us, we're going to make them famous. They'll be out of a job quickly," the family's attorney Natalie Khawam said.
"This has to stop," Lupe Guillen, one of Vanessa's sisters said. "I don't want to see another man or woman dead at Fort Hood. I don't want to see another man or woman sexually harassed or assaulted at Fort Hood."
The new legislation aims to provide a reporting system outside of the chain of command -- service members experiencing sexual assault or harassment would have an independent investigative authority to turn to. The concept was similarly recommended at a Congressional hearing on Tuesday.
"Commands have proven they are incapable of investigating themselves," Army veteran and Vanessa Guillen advocate Lucy Del Gaudio said during the hearing.
In addition to the legislation, the march on the White House Thursday morning echoed demands from recent months for a Congressional investigation of Fort Hood in Texas -- the installation from which Guillen disappeared.
While the United States Army has already conducted its own inspection of the sexual harassment and assault prevention measures in place at the installation and just announced an additional panel for an independent review, advocates say the Army's investigation is not enough. Congress must get involved.
"I wish I could go back and keep her away from the Army, but it's too late now," Mayra Guillen, one of Vanessa's sisters, said at the rally Thursday morning.
The legislation to be introduced to Trump today is just the latest of several bills and amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act aimed at preventing Guillen's fate to fall on any other service member.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., introduced legislation that would reform reporting and investigation of sexual harassment in the military and transform prosecution of sexual harassment and assault by empowering an independent prosecutor to bring charges. The various amendments Speier has introduced to the 2021 defense spending bill call for a Government Accountability Office report on military practices for investigating missing persons and a Department of Defense confidential reporting process for sexual harassment, among other efforts.
“I’ve spent 10 years on this issue,” Speier said during Wednesday's hearing. “I don’t take any pride in the numbers going down or going up because frankly not much has changed. For all that we have done not much has changed. We haven’t fixed it. And until we get very serious about this nothing is going to change.”
The national response to Guillen's murder has been likened to the #MeToo movement of the military. Women veterans and service members around the world have called for justice in the wake of Guillen death -- not just for their murdered sister soldier, but for all women in the military who face sexual harassment and assault.
"We're not only tired of the injustice but we're committed that this is it. This is the end," Air Force veteran and advocate Pamela Campos-Palma told Connecting Vets. "We're not going to play games anymore. We're going to really take stock of our power ... It is on Congress. It is on those people on the Hill to stop giving us crumbs and make a genuine overhaul of the system.
"We continue to be treated as expendable and America's daughters and sons should not have to worry about the enemy being the very people that are supposed to protect them."
Reach Elizabeth Howe on Twitter @ECBHowe.
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