AUSTIN, Texas - One year after Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen went missing from Fort Hood, people around the nation gathered to honor her memory.
One of many candlelight vigils was held Thursday night in South Austin in front of a mural of Guillen painted on the side of Robert Gomez’s home.
"For me, it’s mostly a sign of unity," said Gomez. "It’s a message for our future generations to show that we can come together and we can fight for justice."
The mural, which was painted in July 2020, shows Vanessa Guillen side by side with Breonna Taylor, who was killed around the same time. The painting was a collaborative effort involving community members like Bertha Rendon Delgado.
"We are still fighting for justice for her," said Rendon Delgado. "We wanted to gather as a community so we can remember her and give her all the honor that she deserves."
Guillen’s mother also attended Thursday night’s vigil, calling her daughter a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teammate and "una persona muy extraordinaria."
"We need to push the people who have the power to pass this legislation," said Gloria Guillen, referring to federal and state bills that have been introduced in her daughter’s name.
Also in attendance was Austin City Council member Vanessa Fuentes, who helped with the creation of the mural.
"As someone who is Latina, you feel that the system doesn’t represent us or isn’t built to ensure that we’re protected and we’re safe," said Fuentes. "Not only was she a victim of sexual assault, she was murdered."
Guillen was last seen alive at the Fort Hood Army Base on April 22, 2020. Before she went missing, she told family and friends she was being sexually harassed. The suspect in her case, Spc. Aaron Robinson, ended up dying by suicide. Robinson's girlfriend Cecily Aguilar was arrested after she confessed to helping Robinson bury Guillen's body.
Family members and the family’s attorney gathered in Washington D.C. on Thursday to renew a push for legislation to be passed in her name. The "I Am Vanessa Guillen Act" would reform the way the military handles sexual assault and harassment allegations.
Back in Texas, members of the state legislature are considering several state bills, also calling for accountability reforms in the military.