The commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, Texas announced today that the base will dedicate a special gate in honor of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, who was allegedly murdered by a fellow Hood soldier following her disappearance from base this spring.
Lt. Gen. Pat White, who recently returned from commanding Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, which oversees the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, invited Guillen's family to participate in designing the gate that will memorialize the 20-year-old 3rd Cavalry Regiment soldier.
"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," White said in a written statement. "Their input is important for our final design that will come to fruition over the next few months."
Guillen's family and their attorney Natalie Khawam were set to accept White's invitation, Kcentv.com reported. Khawam told the station that Maj. Gen. John B. Richardson IV, the deputy commanding general for operations of III Corps, would show the family the specs of the Guillen gate, and that they would also visit a memorial soldiers created in Guillen's barracks.
Richardson recently launched an effort designed to restore trust between Hood soldiers and their leadership that has been damaged in the wake of Guillen's tragic murder.
"Vanessa's life was a catalyst for us to implement action to improve trust, discipline, and teamwork across our formations," White said in the statement. "In recent weeks, we began a 'People First' initiative that ensures soldiers, families, and civilians are always at the core of what we do."
Guillen went missing in April after she was allegedly murdered and dismembered by fellow 3rd Cavalry soldier, Spc. Aaron Robinson. Guillen's remains were discovered and identified in early July. Robinson took his own life in July when police approached him. Cecily Aguilar, a 22-year-old civilian from Killeen, has been arrested and charged with allegedly helping Robinson dispose of Guillen's body.
Guillen's death sparked a public outcry and prompted lawmakers to introduce multiple pieces of legislation thatwould dramatically reform how the U.S. military handles the reporting, investigation and prosecution of sexual assault and harassment.
Guillen's family alleged that Robinson sexually harassed Guillen, but Fort Hood and Army Criminal Investigation Command officials maintain that there is no credible evidence that Guillen was the victim of sexual harassment.
Her death also prompted Gen. Michael Garrett, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, to replace Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, the former Fort Hood deputy commander, with Richardson in September.
There are also several ongoing investigations into the command climate and the chain of command's actions related to Guillen's death.
White did not indicate when the gate will be complete, but said it will "serve as a reminder to take care of each other and inspire the next generation of soldiers and the surrounding community."
"The gate we designated leads to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment area where Vanessa served," White said. "The gate is accessed by thousands of soldiers, Civilians, and families every day."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.