By Buddy Blouin
The tragedy of Vanessa Guillén continues to resonate with many in Texas. A case that hit far too close to home for many communities, including Fort Hood, Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and other urban areas, had far-reaching effects in rural communities as well as internationally. It’s clear that her suffering is a wound to the Latino and military communities, and now a city whose population ranks third for Latinos is honoring her memory in a unique way. The Vanessa Guillén Post Office Building is coming to southeast Houston in remembrance of a Soldier and woman lost far too soon.

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Republican Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, along with Democratic Representative Sylvia Garcia of Texas, brought forth legislation to create the Vanessa Guillén Post Office Building. The legislation is formally known as S. 4411 (ENR) - An Act To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 5302 Galveston Road in Houston, Texas, as the Vanessa Guillén Post Office Building. "Vanessa was a strong and ambitious young woman who was taken from her family and Houston much too soon. However, because of her, countless Veterans and service members can live without fear. I hope this post office renaming brings some comfort to Vanessa's family and loved ones," said Rep. Garcia. Now, it awaits a signature from President Joe Biden to be put into action. The move is aiming to deliver even more attention to a case that has captured communities in multiple nations, primarily the United States and Mexico, both of which Guillén had strong ties to. The location chosen is no accident. What is likely to become the Vanessa Guillén Post Office Building is a structure standing only blocks from its potential new namesake’s home.

Reform Since the Fallout of Fort Hood

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wpii7t26aZU The tragedy of Guillén enduring sexual harassment, assault, and ultimately facing her demise will never change, but it has inspired change throughout the military. Such issues are now being taken much more seriously thanks to her family’s fight to help others avoid the same fate. Reforms such as the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act addressed sexual harassment and assault in the military and created a reporting system for victims that could be done confidentially. It also created a special victim's counsel to help victims with legal assistance and requires the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to have a public database of such military-related offenses. Further stimulating the conversation is the I Am Vanessa Guillen documentary that arrived on Netflix in November 2022. It made it to the Top 10 list on the streaming giant upon its debut. The film has reignited the topic and showcased her story. This comes at a time when the military as a whole continues to help troops report such crimes. It also shows the plight of a family that would go on to make a difference through facing unthinkable adversity. "You saw a family and human beings really suffering and pleading for help to find their loved one. I think that resonated with everyone. The Guilléns were just so adept at expressing themselves and being vocal and open about their emotions. That's why their campaign took hold," said the film’s director Christy Wegener. It’s difficult to report or take legal action after facing sexual harassment or assault in the Armed Forces. This is in part because of laws in place that hinder a service member’s ability to take legal action against the U.S. government for harm that occurs during duty, as such can happen on the battlefield. But the laws were never intended to, nor should they ever, hinder one’s ability to seek justice. The Office of Special Trial Counsel (OSTC) aims to help alleviate these issues within the Army. This is a result of several reforms that have come to be in part due to the aftermath of Guillén’s passing.

The Vanessa Guillén Post Office Building Is a Meaningful Gesture From a Community Still Hurting

It’s great to see the action that has taken place since the untimely passing of Guillén. Maintaining the conversation can be painful for many, but it's also allowing more attention to be placed on reform and a change in culture. Now, the Vanessa Guillén Post Office Building is continuing this movement and legacy as a lasting monument to a woman prepared to protect an institution that ultimately failed her.

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Image: KHOU 11




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