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Guillen family urges supporters to contact their representatives to support 'I am Vanessa Guillen' bill

Pfc. Vanessa Guillen
Posted at 6:48 PM, Sep 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-16 21:31:06-04

The United States Congress will vote on a bill overhauling the military justice system in a bill named for Spc. Vanessa Guillen, the soldier authorities say was murdered on Fort Hood.

The murder scandal prompted many changes on post, and the bill would make further changes.

This bill comes from Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) and has the support of at least two members of the Texas Delegation who spoke at a rally outside the United States Capitol about the bill.

"Buenos dias a la familia Guillen, soy Veronica Escobar. Yo represento El Paso," said Democrat El Paso Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, who welcomed the Guillen family in Spanish.

Among other things, the bill would take the decision to prosecute sexual harassment away from military commanders and put it in the hands of prosecutors.

It would make sexual harassment a standalone crime, create a confidential reporting system and launch a government study into how the different military branches handle missing service members.

"This bill makes sure going forward there's never, ever, ever going to be another Vanessa Guillen again," said Republican Congressman Pete Olson of Sugar Land.

That was the hope of the crowd that gathered and a great many Americans. But as Guillen family attorney Natalie Khawam pointed out Vanessa's story never should have happened at all.

"We didn't have to lose Vanessa. We didn't have to lose any of these soldiers," she said.

Sexual harassment had become a particular problem in the military, and especially in the Army. It's top leaders admitted Fort Hood posed its biggest problem.

After the death of Specialist Guillen, many Americans had demanded better treatment of their soldiers.

"You know, they go and they sign up to fight for our county, to take a bullet for our country, not to get sexually harassed and sexually assaulted," said Khawam.

Now, with serious reforms moving through Fort Hood and the Army, supporters of the Guillen bill and members of Congress said they wanted their own action to help those military reforms take hold and work.

"This bill protects our military, and we have a duty to them. They fight for us, it's time we fight for them," Khawam added.

The Guillen family made a passionate plea for help in supporting the bill.

"I would appreciate if all citizens, American citizens, and everyone here in America, pick up your phone and call your congresswomen and men and tell them to support the bill," said Mayra Guillen, Vanessa's sister.

The bill aims to prevent another family tragedy from bringing the kind of sorrow the Guillen family has endured.

"Que no estan solo en su dolor. Y no estan solos en su lucha," said Representative Escobar, assuring the Guillen family they are not alone in their sorrow or fight.

The I am Vanessa Guillen bill has 73 co-sponsors, who expect it to come up for a vote either before the next House recess next month or shortly after the November Election.