Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Stands with Missing Soldier’s Family, Demands Congressional Investigation and Justice
July 1, 2020
Washington, DC—Today, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) joined the family of missing Army Private First Class Vanessa Guillen at a press conference at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. Pfc. Guillen has been missing since April of this year when she disappeared from Fort Hood in Texas. In the weeks that followed, it was revealed that she had been sexually harassed within her unit, which she shared with friends, family, and colleagues. Her family states she did not report this harassment to her chain of command out of fear of retaliation.
Rep. Gabbard delivered remarks during the event, a transcript of which follows:
It is with tremendous sadness and heartbreak that we stand here today with Vanessa Guillen’s family: her dad, Roger, and her sisters, Mayra and Lupe, and her mother, Gloria. What they’re going through is unimaginable.
We stand here for Vanessa. We stand here for justice. We stand here for every other service member who has experienced sexual harassment or assault and did not feel safe reporting it out of fear of retaliation.
For years, the Department of Defense has talked about reform. For years, Congress has pushed the Department of Defense towards the necessary reforms. Some changes have been made, but these changes have not gone nearly far enough.
What is happening here today is evidence of that.
I’ve served as a soldier in the Army for over 17 years. My first four years in the Army were as a young, junior enlisted soldier — just like Vanessa. I later went on to become a commissioned officer where I served as a platoon leader and later a company commander.
I know, personally, the strength of and the importance of the chain of command. I also know and understand that fear that Vanessa must have felt. I know and understand how critical it is for our young troops, our young soldiers to have trust in and faith in their chain of command which is why these acts of abuse and harassment — coming from within that chain of command — are so destructive and have such a devastating impact on a young soldier and on the integrity and cohesiveness of that unit.
This is why, throughout my time in Congress, I’ve long advocated for real reforms through legislation like the Military Justice Improvement Act and other bills that would provide an independent, transparent path towards justice for victims of sexual harassment and assault by providing them a way to report these incidents outside of the chain of command where they would feel safe from that fear of retaliation and would have the trust that they would have their day in court, that they would be able to see true justice.
This is what Vanessa and her family deserve. This is what all our service members deserve. This justice and closure.
So, I stand with the Guillen family in calling for Congressional oversight to find out exactly what happened to her.
The fact that over 60 days have gone by and still there’s been no disclosure of the internal investigation of her sexual harassment charges is absolutely unacceptable. We need to know why she did not get the help she needed when she needed it and why this family is forced to grieve and mourn her loss here today.
Congress needs to do its job. The Department of Defense needs to do its job to truly serve and provide justice to the men and women who voluntarily serve our country and put their lives on the line.
Thank you very much.
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.
Since her first term in Congress, Rep. Tulsi 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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