LULAC has launched a public campaigned called #LaQuieroViva in support of missing Latino soldier Vanesa Guillén and her family. On the day of the campaign’s announcement, Elsie Valdés-Ramos, LULAC’s Vice president for Women, issued the following statement:
“Vanessa is our daughter, our sister, our wife and LULAC will not stop crying out, ‘LA QUIERO VIVA!’ until she is brought home to her family and to our community. We will not rest. Our country and the world saw and heard the heartbreaking pleas of Gloria Guillen, the mother of Vanessa, a few days ago as she wept under the hot Texas sun at the entrance to Fort Hood Army base near Killeen, Texas. ‘LA QUIERO VIVA!’ she cried out to the Army about her daughter, who has been missing now more than two months. We too, feel this mother’s pain over the many still unanswered questions she asked that day.
The background story
As reported by the media, Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old soldier, was last seen on April 22 in a parking lot on the Fort Hood Army Base in central Texas and her family is demanding answers about her disappearance. Her disappearance sparked protests and her family claim that she was sexually harassed before she went missing. After months of pressure from Vanessa’s family, the media, and LULAC, the Army investigators finally admitted they suspect foul play in Vanessa’s disappearance.
LULAC’s advocacy on behalf of Vanessa and other Latino soldiers
Last week LULAC demanded immediate steps be taken by the highest levels of the nation’s military, members of Congress and the White House into what the Army now admits is foul play. The following statement was issued by National President Domingo Garcia:
“It is heartbreaking and we are filled with both anger and anguish over the disappearance of Vanessa on an American military installation. Even more troubling is the total and reckless mishandling of the investigation or the lack of care for her life and well-being. Both seem meaningless to those in command at Ft. Hood. LULAC has always stood by our armed forces and for 93-years our organization has proudly honored our Latino men and women who put on an Army uniform and serve the country they love with honor and distinction. This is what Vanessa Guillen did. Her life exemplifies the very finest and we will not allow this crime to be treated lightly, disrespectfully and with callous indifference!
LULAC also joined Vanessa’s family and issued a predator alert asking Latino young women not to enlist in the Army until the institution can guarantee their safety and protection. In addition, LULAC and the Guillén family are asking for an independent investigation.
But Vanessa Guillén’s case is not the only one LULAC is closely monitoring. Late this month the remains of another missing soldier, Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales, were found in Killeen, Texas. Private’s Wedel-Morales family also pleaded with the Army to investigate, but they didn’t take it seriously enough. Now the Army says the soldier was also a victim of foul play.
The U.S. Army must answer for Vanessa’s disappearance with a full investigation to determine whether those under whose watch this happened were derelict in their duty. Conditions on the base gave rise to the type of sexual harassment Vanessa told her family she was enduring prior to her disappearance. The Army staff at Fort Hood, up to the highest ranking officer must be held accountable without excuse or exception.