FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — For decades, soldiers have been leaving their mark on Central Texas, but few have left a mark as impactful as Army Specialist Vanessa Guillén — a proud soldier who last served at what is now Fort Cavazos.
Before calling Central Texas home, she was a young woman from Houston.
”She was very, I guess the term would be tom-boyish. She always wanted to do something outdoors — never inside,” said Vanessa's sister, Mayra Guillén.
“There was always some adventure she would take us to, and someone would end up getting hurt.”
As she grew older, her love of soccer grew stronger, spending a lot of her free time on the field.
”She wouldn’t only play for the school, but also for outside leagues. She would play what they call indoor soccer,” Mayra Guillén said.
“She would play anything she could get her hands on — she would do it even if it took her all day. Sometimes she would even play three games back-to-back.”
This is why her family was surprised when she told them she was joining the United States Army, and not perusing a career in professional soccer.
”She came home and said, 'I signed up to join the Army', and we were all kind of in shock, but at the same time, I kind of understood why she did it,” Mayra Guillén said.
“She told me straight up, 'I don’t need an office job. That's not me. I don’t want to sit at a desk,'."
Years later, Vanessa’s life was tragically taken from her, but her light shined as right as the protests for justice that swept the nation did.
Those protests and the perseverance of her family lead to major changes in the how the military deals with sexual harassment and assault in their ranks.
”I feel like she really did open the door to those who felt like they could never talk about such things,” Mayra Guillén said.
“Whether it be suicide, what leads up to suicide, whether it be sexual assault, harassment, or medical malpractice stuff.”
Though Vanessa is no longer with us, Mayra Guillén has a message for the sister she says continues to serve her country every day.
”I hope that she is proud to see everything that we’ve been able to do in her honor," Mayra Guillén said.
"I would just ask her to keep us going and help us help others, because at the end of the day, that’s what we’re doing."
SPC Vanessa Guillén proudly served her country, and in the wake of tragic death, she continues to serve as beacon of hope and change for those still serving in uniform.
She is truly a positive face of Fort Cavazos.