Veter­ans honor Army spe­cial­ist al­legedly killed by sol­dier from Calumet City

Chicago Sun-Times - - CHICAGO SUN TIMES - BY MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA,

As young women in the mil­i­tary, Eli Mo­rales and Eboni Davis were sick­ened when they first heard the story of Vanessa Guil­lén.

The 20-year-old Latina sol­dier’s fam­ily begged for an­swers af­ter she went miss­ing at the Fort Hood mil­i­tary base in Killeen, Texas, and Mo­rales and Davis found other Chicago mil­i­tary veter­ans equally dis­turbed by Guil­lén’s dis­ap­pear­ance in their Face­book group for veter­ans.

The so­cial media dis­cus­sions led to a Fourth of July sol­i­dar­ity rally in Humboldt Park to sup­port Guil­lén’s fam­ily.

But a day be­fore Fri­day’s rally, au­thor­i­ties re­vealed that Guil­lén was killed on the Army base by a fel­low sol­dier from south sub­ur­ban Calumet City, who al­legedly blud­geoned, dis­mem­bered then buried the body. The sol­dier, 20-year-old Aaron David Robin­son, killed him­self when po­lice tried to ar­rest him, au­thor­i­ties said.

“We had hoped she’d be found alive. But we wanted to gather veter­ans, the pub­lic and the com­mu­nity to show that we are watch­ing, that Vanessa did not die in vain,” said 29-year-old Mo­rales, who hails from Gurnee and is a sergeant in the Iowa Na­tional Guard.

Guil­lén’s fam­ily be­lieves she had been sex­u­ally ha­rassed on base, which the Army dis­puted.

“It’s crazy how her fam­ily was treated, and the fam­i­lies of so many oth­ers when they seek an­swers from the mil­i­tary about their fam­ily mem­bers,” Mo­rales said.

Some 50 peo­ple turned out for Fri­day’s “CHI4Vaness­a Rally” near the Illi­nois Na­tional Guard’s North­west Ar­mory, 1551 N. Kedzie Ave. Many car­ried posters bear­ing Guil­lén’s photo and signs that read “Jus­tice For Vanessa” and “YoSoyVanes­sa.”

The crowd called for ac­count­abil­ity, say­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment and abuse is per­va­sive in the mil­i­tary, and more of­ten than not, gets swept un­der the rug.

“We stand in sol­i­dar­ity with the fam­ily, to bring aware­ness to the cul­tural in­jus­tices that women for the most part, and males too, face in the mil­i­tary,” said Carlos Luna, pres­i­dent of the League of United Latin Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens, Coun­cil #5310 in Chicago.

“Mil­i­tary sex­ual trauma is a phe­nom­e­non that is ram­pant but not spo­ken of nearly as much and bears very lit­tle ac­count­abil­ity, as we saw in this case. We’re re­ally just sup­port­ing veter­ans here in Chicago who wanted to be heard.”

Guil­lén’s mother had heard about Chicago’s rally for her slain daugh­ter and posted pic­tures from the event on so­cial media.

“When her mother shared it, I said, ‘mis­sion ac­com­plished.’ We were re­ally proud of that be­cause we just wanted to let her know that other folks in other cities were stand­ing with her, that she wasn’t alone,” said 31-year-old Davis, an Army Re­serve spe­cial­ist from Wash­ing­ton Park.

Ear­lier in the week, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand, D-N.Y., and U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., sent a let­ter to Act­ing De­part­ment of De­fense In­spec­tor Gen­eral Sean O’Don­nell, call­ing for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“The dis­ap­pear­ance of Spe­cial­ist Vanessa Guil­lén raises se­ri­ous and alarm­ing ques­tions about the Army’s abil­ity to pre­vent sex­ual ha­rass­ment and as­sault, re­spond to crim­i­nal acts and pro­vide jus­tice for vic­tims and their fam­i­lies,” Gil­li­brand wrote. “There must be a full and thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Guil­lén’s dis­ap­pear­ance, both to de­liver jus­tice and to ini­ti­ate change in the Army’s ap­proach to sex­ual as­sault in the mil­i­tary and the cul­ture that en­ables it.”

Joe Bi­den also re­leased a state­ment call­ing for ac­count­abil­ity in the death.

“We owe it to those who put on the uni­form, and to their fam­i­lies, to put an end to sex­ual ha­rass­ment and as­sault in the mil­i­tary, and hold per­pe­tra­tors ac­count­able,” Bi­den said.

PAT NABONG/SUN-TIMES

A mari­achi band plays a song for Vanessa Guil­lén, killed at Fort Hood in Texas, dur­ing a rally Fri­day in Chicago.

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