Vanessa Guillen went missing from Ft. Hood, Texas in April after alleging a sergeant was sexually harassing her.
TEXAS — Gloria Guillen has not seen her daughter, Vanessa Guillen, for more than 50 days. The private first class disappeared from Fort Hood, Texas on April 22. Since then, her family has been using social media, protests, vigils, and billboards to get national attention with not much luck.
“It’s been months, and we know nothing, nothing, nothing,” said Gloria Guillen, Vanessa’s mother, at a virtual press conference Tuesday. “What happened? What happened on the base? Why did my daughter disappear?”
On Monday, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) offered a $25,000 reward for information that could lead to finding Vanessa. On Tuesday, Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, better known as LULAC, matched that reward, bringing the total to $50,000.
“There is a saying in the military,” García stated during the same virtual conference. “We leave no soldier behind. We cannot leave Vanessa behind. We cannot leave her family behind.”
Where is Vanessa Guillen?
Vanessa’s car is still in a parking lot at Fort Hood. Her family’s attorney hopes to get the videos from surrounding cameras to see if there are any clues to her disappearance. Her family was told Vanessa’s belongings were found in an armory room where she worked, but her cellphone was missing.
Mayra Guillen described how her sister graduated from high school two years ago, leaving for the Army just a few days later. She was a committed soldier, which is why Mayra is frustrated — she feels the Army could do more to find her.
“Keep in mind the Army is trained to look for people,” Mayra says. “How can we not find one of our own? How can they not find one of their own?”
U.S. Rep. Sylvia García, a Democrat from Texas who hosted the virtual press conference from Houston, said she is also frustrated because she is getting limited information from the Army on the investigation. “We need answers because the reality is Vanessa was on the base,” she said. “This should never have happened.”
The 20-year-old Latina told her family that she did not feel safe on the base and that a sergeant had been sexually harassing her, but her mother said she never identified the person or filed a formal complaint with the Army. The CID determined there was no credible information that Vanessa had been sexually assaulted.
The Houston native’s disappearance got national exposure when her family launched a “Find Vanessa Guillen” campaign through a website and social media. It got the attention of actress Salma Hayek, who posted a photo of herself to her 15 million followers on Instagram holding a sign with a picture of the missing soldier and the legend “Bring Back Vanessa. We’re all with you and won’t stop until you come back.”
The Army CID said they have interviewed more than 150 people, and are working with several law enforcement agencies on the case. Chris Grey, spokesman for the investigation unit, said, “We know somebody out there has some very critical information pertaining to this investigation, and we strongly encourage you to do the right thing and come forward.”
Anyone with information on Vanessa’s disappearance should call the Army CID at 254-287-2711, or the Military Police at 254-288-1170. Domingo Garcia said LULAC would keep any information confidential, and tipsters would remain anonymous. Those with information can call that organization at 214-941-8300.
Vanessa’s family is scheduled to meet with one of the top Army officials at Ft. Hood on Thursday. Congresswoman Garcia said Army officials told her that a special investigative team would be formed to look closer into Vanessa’s sexual assault and sexual harassment allegations. But Vanessa’s mother wants an independent investigation because she feels she will not get the truth from the Army.
“I can’t handle this anymore,” the woman said in tears. “Not one more day. I can’t sleep, and my health is bad. I beg you to help me find out the truth. What happened on that base to my daughter.”