Spotlight on U.S. Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen

By Robert Bard

The horrible murder of U.S. Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen in Fort Hood, Texas, is a grim reminder that no matter how accomplished and strong women are they remain vulnerable to unspeakable violence. As the proud father of a Latina Naval officer who served in Kabul, Afghanistan, for a whole year at the height of hostilities, we understood the dangers she was facing. It is inconceivable to me that she could be in danger here, at home, among her peers. Although policies and regulations exist in the services to educate military members of the consequences of harassment, especially sexual, the practice continues to this day. And many women experience it daily wherever they may work. Obviously, something needs to be done.  Spc’s Guillen’s death is a clear indication that the current policies are in fact ineffective. Reporting sexual harassment, assault, or otherwise is a very serious and delicate proposition.

How can you get a fair hearing that will not jeopardize your career and position among your peers? U.S. Representative Sylvia Garcia and Mr. Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) met with Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy to discuss this case.  Eighty-seven members of Congress signed a letter requesting an independent investigation as to the circumstances of her demise and how the Army proceeded in her search when she was declared missing. The review of harassment policies needs to be service-wide, not only in the Army and it should be done by an independent commission.

There is no doubt that women bring to the services a tremendous pool of talent. They make a positive contribution to the readiness and quality of our services. But we must take care of them. We thank Vanessa for her service and wish she could have continued on her chosen career.

Our condolences to the Guillen family, she will be missed.