A Houston post office will soon bear the name of a woman who became the face of the #MeToo movement for the U.S. armed services.
The Vanessa Guillén Post Office Building in southeast Houston will honor the Army private first class who disappeared in April 2020 from Fort Hood, Texas, shortly after telling her family she was being sexually harassed by a noncommissioned officer. She was found dead two months later, killed by a fellow soldier over a separate incident.
Her death, along with accounts from other soldiers who said they’d been harassed but their complaints about their treatment had not been taken seriously, sparked a massive investigation into command climate at Fort Hood — one that concluded that sexual assault and harassment reports were dismissed or ignored by leaders.
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The case also galvanized an ongoing effort by members of the U.S. Senate and House to remove decisions to prosecute sexual assault and harassment from the chain of command.
“[This] changed legislation that will not only help thousands of victims but give voice to people, like my sister, who for decades suffered in silence,” Mayra Guillén, Vanessa’s younger sister, said during a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 22.
Legislation to rename the Park Place Post Office at 5302 Galveston Road for Guillén was driven by Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and Democratic Rep. Sylvia Garcia of Texas. The bill passed the Senate and the House earlier this month and was forwarded Wednesday to President Joe Biden for his signature.
“Vanessa was a strong and ambitious young woman who was taken from her family and Houston much too soon. However, because of her, countless veterans and service members can live without fear. I hope this post office renaming brings some comfort to Vanessa’s family and loved ones,” Garcia said in a statement after House passage Dec. 21.
“By renaming a Houston post office after this fallen soldier, we commemorate Vanessa’s life, legacy, and service to our great nation,” Cruz said in June while introducing the legislation.
“Guillén’s sacrifice was the catalyst that lead to the Army implementing meaningful change addressing the far too pervasive problem of sexual assault and harassment across the entire service.”
The post office is a few blocks from Guillén’s home and former high school where she played soccer and was in the top 15% of her class. The small arms and artillery repairer was posthumously promoted to specialist on July 1, 2020.
“This brings some joy and spirit to people during the holidays to see our service members being honored such as Vanessa for their commitment to serving our country,” said Natalie Khawam, the Guillén family’s attorney, during a press conference following the vote.
A documentary about Guillén’s life and aftermath of her death premiered in November on Netflix, making its debut in the streaming platform’s Top 10 list.
Director Christy Wegener told Military.com that Guillén’s family drove the changes that needed to occur within the U.S. military justice system.
“You saw a family and human beings really suffering and pleading for help to find their loved one. I think that resonated with everyone. The Guilléns were just so adept at expressing themselves and being vocal and open about their emotions. That’s why their campaign took hold,” Wegener said.
– Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.
Related: ‘I Am Vanessa Guillén’ Is a Damning Indictment of Fort Hood Culture
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