A few days ago word finally came that Vanessa Guillen, soldier, daughter, sister and granddaughter was gone. She had been brutally killed and her body removed. One suspect has committed suicide while the other remains in custody. LULAC is grieving with the family of Vanessa Guillen over her sad and tragic death, and we are responding to the outcry of our community as we have for 91 years. Yes, first and foremost, Latinos want justice in the tragic killing of the 20-year old soldier who was serving her country when she disappeared. Also, LULAC, as the leading Latino civil rights organization, is calling for systemic change within the U.S. Army. We want to make sure this never happens again to any soldier in the future. Vanessa’s whereabouts were dismissed as “simply missing” for weeks even though the family kept telling the Army that was not the case. LULAC wants to make sure all the information is brought to light about Vanessa’s experience within her ranks prior to her death.
Also, LULAC wants the larger issue investigated of sexual harassment within the Army and other military branches. Was Vanessa’s daily life as she revealed to her loved ones, an example of what many other women continue to experience in uniform? Vanessa said she was afraid of retaliation and what talking about this harassment would do to her own safety and career.
LULAC has received reports from other women who also speak of being afraid to talk because it will expose them to danger or ruin their career. LULAC is calling for the establishment of a separate, outside agency, outside of the military protocols (chain of command) that can both investigate and prosecute cases like Vanessa’s including sexual crimes and other violations of military regulations (as well as civilian laws).
LULAC intends to continue on this issue and is committed to being the chief advocate for America’s Latino community. LULAC is affirming the pain of Gloria Guillen, Vanessa’s mother, who called for Latinos not to support, encourage or allow our children to join the military. We cannot support our daughters (and sons) enlisting without the Army (and other branches) being willing to protect them from actions that are violations of military regulations.