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Vanessa Guillen family meets with Fort Hood leadership, sees design of gate named in her honor

Vanessa Guillen's family and their attorney met with Lt. Gen. Pat White and saw the designs for a gate that will be named in her honor.

FORT HOOD, Texas — Vanessa Guillen's family and their attorney Natalie Khawam met with Fort Hood leadership Tuesday, Khawam said.

Guillen was killed on post in April which launched an extensive search ending with the discovery of her remains on June 30 near the Leon River in Bell County.

Khawam said they met with III Corps and Fort Hood Commanding General Lt. Gen. Pat White and Deputy Commanding General Maj. Gen. John Richardson.

White returned from Iraq in October where he led nearly 400 soldiers in a year-long deployment in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.

Khawam said they saw the designs of a gate that will be named in Guillen's honor. They also visited a memorial soldiers created in Guillen's barracks.

"I can tell a ploy when I see one and when I smell one. No one can act this long, no matter how good they are, " Khawam said. "This command sincerely wants to change the climate at Fort Hood and I appreciate that. We appreciate that. everyone appreciates that. Because these are our brothers and sisters that are serving our country and they too deserve to be protected."

White released a statement through the Fort Hood Press Center about the gate he said would be completed over the course of the next few months.

"We invited Specialist Vanessa Guillén’s family to visit Fort Hood as we take an important step together to memorialize Vanessa’s life and service to our Nation," White said. "Vanessa’s life was a catalyst for us to implement action to improve trust, discipline, and teamwork across our formations.
In recent weeks, we began a “People First” initiative that ensures Soldiers, families, and civilians are always at the core of what we do. All of our 38,000 Soldiers at Fort Hood are important, and, like Specialist Guillén each volunteered to serve our Nation. They deserve our best leadership. One of the reasons we invited the Guillén family today (Tuesday) was to discuss and review design concepts and survey a proposed site of a gate we plan to name in Vanessa’s honor. Their input is important for our final design that will come to fruition over the next few months.
The gate we designated leads to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment area where Vanessa served. The gate is accessed by thousands of Soldiers, Civilians, and Families every day.
A memorial gate in honor of Vanessa – a proud Texan – will serve as a reminder to take care of each other and inspire the next generation of Soldiers and the surrounding community."

During the press conference, Guillen's mother Gloria said, "I want justice in name of Vanessa Guillen. There had to be an innocent death for change. The president didn’t do anything. He lost and he didn’t do anything. He only lied. The secretary of defense didn’t do anything either."

Gloria said she wants the truth and won't stop until she hears the truth.

"My daughter is the love of my life and they took a part of me. It was an atrocious death of a little girl. She’s not a cockroach. The bill will pass to protect all soldiers who are suffering. I don’t want another mother to suffer like me," Gloria said. "People are begging for answers. I want the truth and the bill to pass for all of this to change for the better for everyone. They took the life of an innocent girl in a cruel way. My daughter knew something she shouldn’t have seen and they shut her up. God is big and merciful and justice will be made. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being here and listening to me. We will not stop until we have answers. Thank you and God bless everyone."

The gate for Guillen will be near the Mayborn Gate, according to Col. Myles Caggins with III Corps Public Affairs.

A criminal complaint said Guillen was killed by Spc. Aaron Robinson on April 22 in an armory room on post. It said Robinson, with the help of his girlfriend Cecily Aguilar, dismembered Guillen's body and buried the remains.

Robinson shot and killed himself in the early morning hours of July 1 when police were approaching him in Killeen.

Aguilar was arrested and charged with conspiracy to tamper with evidence. She was scheduled to be tried in a Waco federal court on Jan. 19.

Guillen's death led to multiple investigations into the command and climate on Fort Hood, along with the creation of the I Am Vanessa Guillen bill. The bill would allow members of the military to report sexual harassment and assault to a third party outside their chain of command.

RELATED: Bill honoring Vanessa Guillen introduced in Washington D.C. Wednesday

Guillen's family said she told them she was sexually harassed but never reported it for fear of retaliation.

RELATED: #IAmVanessaGuillen | Hashtag raises awareness of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military

Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy established a five member civilian panel in July to look into not just the leadership on post but also the culture in the surrounding community. 

Army Public Affairs spokeswoman Elizabeth Chamberlain said the panel was expected to present their findings to Army senior leadership in November.

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