The story of Vanessa Guillen is sad and tragic. Guillen was a 20-year-old soldier killed at Fort Hood, allegedly by a fellow soldier who is believed to have been sexually harassing her. She was reported missing in April. Her remains were found in late June.
Hers is a gruesome story. Guillen is believed to have been bludgeoned to death and then dismembered. The main suspect, Spc. Aaron Robinson shot and killed himself as law enforcement authorities moved in on him in a neighboring city. His girlfriend, 22-year-old Cecily Ann Aguilar was charged with conspiracy charges alleging she helped discard the body and hide evidence. She pleaded not guilty.
President Trump invited relatives of Vanessa Guillen to the White House Thursday to tell him about her story. They spoke with him, some with the help of a translator, and the family’s attorney was present. It is reported that the meeting was emotional and the president offered his personal financial support for Vanessa’s funeral expenses, if the family is in need. The family has turned down a military funeral and is waiting for the return of her remains.
“I don’t even know if you need help, maybe you don’t need help from a financial standpoint. I have no idea. I just think it’s a horrific thing that happened and if you did need help, I’ll be there to help you,” Trump said.
In response to a reporter’s question, Trump said he’s paid for other soldiers’ funerals.
“I have, I have. I have to do it personally, I can’t do it through government,” Trump said. “I have because some families need help. They need help.”
Trump announced his support for a new congressional bill aimed at changing how sexual abuse and harassment cases are handled by the military. He asked the family’s attorney, Natalie Khawam, to tell Guillen’s story. He doesn’t want it “swept under the rug.”
Khawan described the situation surrounding sexual harassment and assualt in the military as “picking at a scab” and finding that it was “septic.” Guillen’s family had said the soldier was a victim of sexual harassment.
“It’s a systemic problem,” Khawam told Trump in the Oval Office. “There isn’t enough protection in place, because they get nervous about retaliation.”
Khawam went on to say that the military has not been transparent or helpful in gaining answers surrounding the murder of Guillen, who was killed on base, in the armory of Fort Hood.
“You have our support and we’re working on it already, as you know,” Trump said announcing his backing of the #IamVanessaGuillen Bill.
“We won’t stop, and hopefully something very positive will come out in honor of your sister and your daughter,” Trump said to Guillen’s family.
The legislation is named in memory of Guillen. It would allow active-duty service members to report sexual harassment or assault to a third party outside their chain of command. The goal is to eliminate fears of retaliation that discourage soldiers from reporting abuse by superiors. When Guillen went missing, her family mentioned that she had told them she was being sexually harassed by another soldier but had not reported it, out of fear of retaliation.
Earlier in the day, Guillen’s mother and younger sister spoke during a news conference on the National Mall. Her mother speaks in Spanish, that is why a translator was used. While I can’t imagine the grief she is experiencing, her call for Fort Hood to be closed is over the top. I’ll note that there have been homicides at Fort Hood in recent months, two of which are Pfc. Gregory Wedel and Pfc. Brandon Rosecrans. Clearly, something is happening and needs to be addressed.
“My daughter is already history,” the soldier’s mother, Gloria Guillen, told a crowd in Spanish Thursday morning at a news conference on the National Mall. “If the president of the nation wants to make history together with my daughter, he’ll make sure that the devil base is closed and all the damn corruption that exists in the Army is cleaned out.”
“I am a 16-year-old girl — a woman standing here speaking for my sister. I want Congress to pass #IamVanessaGuillen,” Vanessa Guillén’s younger sister, Lupe, said.
The Army released a statement and also acknowledged that Vanessa Guillen may have been harassed in an unrelated matter to her disappearance and murder. That is still under investigation.
Also Thursday, the Army named an independent panel of five experts to investigate whether personnel at Fort Hood and the surrounding community have allowed a climate of sexual harassment and discrimination to flourish.
The independent review will be led by Chris Swecker, a lawyer and former assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.
“The Army is committed to taking care of our soldiers, civilians, families, and soldiers for life, and this independent review will explore the current command climate and culture at Fort Hood,” Army Sec. Ryan McCarthy said in a statement.
Sexual harassment and abuse isn’t anything new coming from the military. Tailhook, anyone? Military bases are little cities or towns of their own. They experience the same problems that civilians do outside the bases. Vanessa Guillen’s story is a tragedy. By all reported accounts, she was well-liked and a good person.
“It hit me very hard, what happened to your daughter Vanessa, who is a spectacular person and respected and loved by everybody, including in the military,” Trump told the family.
Groups from around the country attended the march to the National Mall in honor of Vanessa, including a Houston congresswoman who tweeted about it. “We cannot stop until Gloria Guillén and the rest of the Guillén family receive #JusticiaPorVanessaGuillén. Today it is about Vanessa Guillén and her legacy.”
This meeting was a smart move for Trump – to reach out to a Latino family in grief. Trump’s support of the members of the military is unquestionable. Showing his support for Vanessa Guillen gave him a chance to mention his support of legislation that addresses the problems that may have led to her death. And, it was a good opportunity for him to show compassion, something the ugly left insists he is lacking as a human being.