Mourners honor slain soldier Vanessa Guillen’s life in Houston Friday

Texas
Supporters of the family of slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen march to the White House along the National Mall as Capitol Hill is seen in the distance after a news conference, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Supporters of the family of slain Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen march to the White House along the National Mall as Capitol Hill is seen in the distance after a news conference, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

HOUSTON (AP) — Mourners will gather Friday in Houston to honor the life of a slain Texas soldier whose story has renewed a push for changes in the way the military handles sexual abuse and harassment from Fort Hood to Capitol Hill.

Vannessa Guillen’s family scheduled the memorial for noon to 8 p.m. at Cesar E. Chavez High School, on a field where Guillen once played soccer as a high school athlete.

The Catholic service is open to the public and will also be streamed online.

Natalie Khawam, who is representing the Guillen family, said the family is thankful to President Donald Trump because the White House helped to expedite the process of giving Guillen’s remains to the family so they could have a funeral. She said five military officers from Arlington National Cemetery will be in Houston for the ceremony to ensure the memorial is done as if she had been buried in Virginia.

“We look forward to celebrating her life as someone who not only gave to this community but also to this country,” Khawam said.

Guillen disappeared from Fort Hood, where she was stationed, on April 22, and Army officials confirmed July 6 that her remains had been found. Investigators said she was bludgeoned to death on base by a fellow soldier, who later killed himself, according to a federal complaint.

Civilian Cecily Aguilar, 22, is charged with a federal count of conspiracy to destroy evidence in helping dispose of the body. She has pleaded not guilty and is being held at the Bell County Jail.

Guillen’s family has said she was sexually harassed by the fellow soldier suspected of killing her, but the Army has said there is no evidence of that.

The Army is investigating Guillen’s death. Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy ordered an independent review of the command climate at Fort Hood following Guillen’s slaying.

Members of Congress have joined advocates for women demanding systemic shifts in military culture. Some have invoked the hashtag #NiUnaMas, meaning “not one more woman dead,” a rallying cry in Mexico against the murder of women.

Trump met with the family in July, promising that the federal government would “get to the bottom” of Guillen’s slaying. Trump also pledge to help with the family’s funeral expenses.

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