Fort Hood Unveils Gate, Memorial Plaque Honoring Slain Soldier Vanessa Guillén

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Vanessa Guillen memorial gate at Fort Hood
The Guillen family comfort each other after the unveiling of the Spc. Vanessa Guillén Gate at Fort Hood, Texas, April 19, 2021. (Sgt. Melissa N. Lessard/U.S. Army)

A memorial honoring Vanessa Guillén, a Fort Hood soldier who told her family she was being sexually harassed before she vanished and was later found dead, was unveiled at the Texas military base just days before the one-year anniversary of her disappearance.

Guillén's family on Monday revealed the gate leading into the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, "where [Guillén] lived day-to-day, where she served her country honorably," said Lt. Gen. Pat White, commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood. According to a Facebook page once dedicated to finding the Army specialist, her loved ones had a hand in designing the entryway as well as a memorial plaque featuring Guillén's image.

"In coordination with the family, who agreed to allow us to do this, we are going to dedicate a gate that has her name on it -- that has her picture -- and you can come learn just a little about Vanessa," White said.

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"But mostly it's so in two, three, four years, we haven't forgotten what this is all about, what this moment is all about in our history,"

Guillén's younger sister, Lupe Guillén, during a press conference after the ceremony noted that her mother did not attend the unveiling given the approaching anniversary of her daughter's death.

"They should have cared when she was alive -- not until now," she said, battling back emotions.

The Army specialist was last seen alive on April 22, 2020, between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. in the parking lot of her 3rd Cavalry Regiment Engineer Squadron Headquarters. Authorities said the keys to her car and her barracks as well as her ID card and wallet were later found in the armory room where she had worked earlier in the day.

It took months for investigators to uncover her remains. Her body was eventually discovered on June 30, 2020 by contractors working on a fence along the Leon River.

Police attempted to arrest 20-year-old Spc. Aaron Robinson in July, but he shot and killed himself before he could be taken into custody. Cecily Aguilar, Robinson's 22-year-old girlfriend, is also accused of helping Robinson dispose of Guillén's body. She has pleaded not guilty but remained behind bars on Tuesday.

According to an affidavit obtained by KWTX, Robinson beat Guillén with a hammer and then allegedly dismembered and burned her body.

In December, 14 leaders at the base were fired or suspended based on an independent review that found that there was a "permissive environment for sexual assault and sexual harassment."

Those disciplined also included Maj. Gen. Scott L. Efflandt, who was the acting Fort Hood commander at the time of Guillén's death.

This article is written by Jessica Schladebeck from New York Daily News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

Related: Fort Hood's Vanessa Guillen Tragedy Leads to Army-Wide Overhaul of Sexual Assault, Harassment Prevention

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