Remembered for her determination, humor, strength and compassion for others, Spc. Vanessa Guillen’s family joined the Brave Rifles during a memorial ceremony honoring their Soldier, daughter, sister, and friend, Friday at the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel.
“We’re gathered this morning to grieve, to honor and to remember our sister-in-arms, Spc. Vanessa Guillen, and celebrate her life and dedication to service,” Lt. Col. Edward Gavin, commander of the Regimental Engineer Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment said during the ceremony. “Hers was a life taken too soon and under tragic conditions. As we are filled with sorrow in a storm of emotion and grief over her death, please honor her memory with your actions. Pray for our unit and her family as we mourn.”
A native of Houston, Guillen joined the Army following graduation from high school in 2018. After Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, she trained as a small arms repair specialist during Advanced Individual Training at Fort Lee, Virginia. She was assigned to Fort Hood in January 2019 and had completed a rotation to the National Training Center.
The squadron commander revealed that although she was probably still exhausted from NTC, Guillen completed a grueling set of obstacles to earn entrance into the Order of the Silver Spur in December. He recalled that throughout the spur ride, she supported and encouraged her fellow troopers to keep going.
Gavin said losing a Soldier is never easy, but losing a Soldier under tragic circumstances is always more difficult. He encouraged his troopers to lean on one another, support one another and seek help, if needed, while they mourn her loss together.
“This is difficult. This is difficult to discuss because the tragedy of her loss has forever changed our squadron and it has forever changed her family,” he added. “We wrestle with feelings of anger, depression, anxiety, fear, frustration and sadness. And we have so many questions, some of which may never be answered.”
Guillen’s story and heartrending loss was felt across the nation. After the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command and 3rd Cav. Regt. troopers spent more than two months of searching the installation, her remains were found near the Leon River in Bell County on June 30.
“The past months have been challenging, heartbreaking and have left many of us in disbelief,” her company commander, Capt. Samuel Obrist, said, addressing the Brave Rifles troopers during the ceremony. “I can promise you, from the bottom of my heart that your care, concern and hard work have not gone unnoticed and is appreciated more than you will ever know.”
Following an emotional roll call, firing of the volleys and the playing of Taps, Guillen’s chain-of-command, family, then battalion, paid final respects to her, leaving coins or other mementos at the foot of the Soldier’s Cross.
Representing the Brave Rifles troopers, Spc. Betavious Hightower conducted the service member’s tribute, remembering Guillen as a best friend and running partner, who became like a sister to him.
“We built a bond, not just as a fellow trooper, but as my sister,” Hightower said emotionally. “As a caring person, she made me feel like a big brother, even though she was a year older than me.”
The Soldier said the last time he heard from Guillen was the morning of April 22, when she texted him a screenshot of the weather. He revealed they were planning on going hiking later that day.
“That’s the last communication I had with her, and one I will forever cherish,” Hightower said. “It feels lonelier without her. I will forever miss you Vanessa Guillen. Rest in peace.”