Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Calls for Independent Investigation into Missing Soldier’s Disappearance
July 6, 2020
Washington, DC—Today, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29) and 86 Members of Congress called on the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General to conduct a full and independent investigation of the April 22 disappearance of U.S. Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen. Her remains were positively identified last week, found near the Leon River, just east of where she went missing in April.
“SPC Vanessa Guillen volunteered to serve our country, and proudly wore the uniform. Yet, her life and service was cut short. Since her disappearance over 2 months ago, we learned that she was a victim of sexual harassment, and that she was too afraid to report it. Unfortunately, in the midst of their grief and uncertainty, Vanessa’s family has suffered throughout her disappearance with no real answers or transparency about what happened to Vanessa and why. Vanessa and her family deserve justice and closure. Our servicemen and women deserve justice and faith that the military they serve in will take care of them,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “The Department of Defense Inspector General must conduct a full and independent investigation. While we are too late to save Vanessa’s life, we must honor her life by getting to the truth and working to prevent this from happening to others.”
The full text of the letter can be read here.
Background: Vanessa Guillen grew up in Houston, Texas. She joined the Army in 2019 and was assigned to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. She was last seen on April 22 near the squadron headquarters. Her car keys, identification card, and wallet were all found at Fort Hood. Her remains were positively identified last week, found near the Leon River, just east of where she went missing in April.
On Wednesday, July 1, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard joined the Guillen family at a press conference at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. demanding answers regarding her disappearance and the reported sexual harassment she faced while serving.
On Friday, July 3, the Guillen family was informed that Vanessa’s remains were found and identified near Fort Hood. Vanessa was posthumously promoted from Private First Class (E-3) to Specialist (E-4).
Since her first term in Congress, Rep. Gabbard has been outspoken in her support for victims of military sexual assault as well as led the fight for the Military Justice Improvement Act to secure justice, address the trauma they face, and ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs is equipped to address their needs.
In May 2019, Rep. Gabbard cosponsored H.R.2388, Harmony’s Law, a bill that would help prevent those convicted and found guilty of rape in the military from being freed from jail on a misconstrued technicality due to the U.S. v. Mangahas ruling. It would authorize the House Office of General Counsel to represent the interests of Congress in any cases related to the Mangahas decision, expressing the intent of Congress that the passage of time should not bar the prosecution of rape or sexual assault under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, and eliminating statutes of limitations for sexual offenses in the military against children.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled in U.S. v. Mangahas that the statute of limitations for sexual assaults that occurred before 2006 is five years. In doing so, the Court incorrectly overruled the military’s standard in place from 1986 to 2006 that rape could “be tried and punished at any time without limitation” and misinterpreted the Congressional intent of the 2006 NDAA by failing to apply it to cases that occurred prior to 2006.
About Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving her fourth term in the United States House representing Hawai‘i’s Second District, and serves on the House Armed Services and Financial Services Committees. She previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Homeland Security Committee. She was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010, and prior to that at age 21, was elected to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in 2002, becoming the youngest person ever elected in the state. Tulsi Gabbard has served in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard for over 17 years, is a veteran of two Middle East deployments, and continues to serve as a Major. Learn more about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard...
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