The family of a Fort Hood soldier who has been missing since April is growing desperate for answers about her mysterious disappearance.
The soldier, Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, 20, has been missing from her unit since April 22, according to the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.
Guillen was last seen in a black T-shirt and purple fitness-type pants in the parking lot of her Regimental Engineer Squadron headquarters between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Her car keys, barracks room key, ID and wallet were found in the armory room where she had been at work repairing small arms and artillery. She is 5 feet 2 inches tall, weighs 126 pounds and has black hair and brown eyes.
“I will not rest until my daughter is found, and until she is found alive,” Guillen’s mother, Gloria Guillen, 42, who is from Mexico and lives in Houston, said in an interview Thursday in Spanish.
Officials said that more than 500 soldiers had searched for Guillen in buildings, barracks, fields, training areas, lakes and trails at Fort Hood. An aircraft from the 1st Cavalry Division flew more than 100 hours to search for her, and more than 150 people have been interviewed.
Family members, disheartened by what they say has been a lack of information from the authorities, have rallied outside the base demanding answers. The disappearance has also drawn the attention of some celebrities, including actress Salma Hayek, who has posted about Guillen on Instagram.
Officials at Fort Hood said Thursday that they had appointed a team to look into allegations from Guillen’s family that she had been sexually harassed before she disappeared. The officials did not disclose details of those allegations.
“I opened an investigation concerning the information provided by the Guillen family that Pfc. Vanessa Guillen was harassed prior to her disappearance,” said Col. Ralph Overland, commander of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. “I take allegations of sexual harassment very seriously, and we are conducting a thorough investigation.”
Investigators are also looking into a widely circulated social media post claiming that Guillen’s body was found on one of the base’s training ranges.
Special agents have no credible information that the post is true, said Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Criminal Investigation Command. “The individual who posted this no longer resides or is stationed at Fort Hood and is no longer in the Army. However, out of an abundance of caution, we are contacting the individual.”
Investigators believe that Guillen’s case is not connected to the disappearance last year of another soldier at Fort Hood, Pvt. Gregory Morales.
Morales was last seen Aug. 19, 2019, while driving a car in Killeen, Texas, where the base is. The Criminal Investigation Command is offering a $25,000 reward for credible information leading to the whereabouts of Morales and Guillen.
Domingo Garcia, the national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, has contributed an additional $25,000 reward for credible information regarding Guillen’s whereabouts, said Roman Palomares, a spokesman for the Hispanic advocacy organization.
Rapper Baby Bash wrote on Facebook that he would add $5,000 to the reward.
Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, said that Guillen’s family had reached out to her office asking for help to get answers about her disappearance.
Garcia said she had helped set up a virtual meeting June 8 between Guillen’s mother and military officials and investigators. In addition to the virtual meeting, investigators said they had weekly phone calls with Guillen’s family and also held a meeting in person with her sister May 23.
An in-person meeting during which the authorities will review the case’s timeline for Guillen’s mother has been set up.
“We need to get answers,” the congresswoman said. “We need to find Vanessa. We need to find relief for this family and get to the bottom of this.”
Guillen’s interest in the military stems from childhood, her mother said.
A decade ago, she used to play with her brother’s toy pistol and told her mother that she would eventually join the military. She always said that she wanted to defend her homeland, despite her mother’s hesitations.
Gloria Guillen misses the hugs she used to get from her daughter when she came home for dinner or went with her to church.
“My daughter was special to everyone,” Guillen said, “but more for me because I’m her mother.”
Anyone with information on Guillen’s disappearance can contact Army Criminal Investigation Command special agents at (254) 495-7767 or the Military Police at (254) 288-1170. Anonymous claims can be made on the command’s website.
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