“How could she go missing on a military base?” the sister of a slain Fort Hood soldier cries in an interview. Fort Hood, located in Killeen, Texas, is one of the largest military installations and a military base with a sky-high crime rate. Murder, missing persons, harassment, prostitution rings, and assaults aren’t what you’d expect to find on 78-year-old base. The scope of these criminal acts was noticed by countless people when a young woman in her military uniform, classified as missing, was spread across social media.
On April 22, 2020, a 20-year-old soldier, Vanessa Guillen went missing from Fort Hood. Guillen’s disappearance drew attention across international news outlets as her family asked for help from the public. Celebrities brought awareness to the case through their social media and pledged money to help find her.
For two months, the family asked for assistance but few answers were given by Fort Hood. During the investigation a set of remains were found in Killeen. Said remains belonged to Fort Hood soldier, Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales, who was last seen August 19th, 2019. He was believed to be a deserter at Fort Hood, meaning he left at his own will and was put on the military’s AWOL list. Without the pressure from Guillen’s family and the attention from the media, the search for Vanessa wouldn’t have been as extensive and Morales’s remains likely wouldn’t have been found.
Guillen’s remains were found 20 miles from the base on June 30, 2020. All the way through June, Guillen’s family prayed and hoped she’d come home safely. But it was discovered she was killed and dismembered by soldier, Spc. Aaron Robinson, the same day she went missing. On July 1st, Robinson shot and killed himself after he was tipped off from the news about the discovery of her remains.
That same month, Army Spc. Miguel D. Yazzie, was hospitalized for a medical condition at a hospital facility off the base. He tragically passed away the following day. Both families of Guillen and Yazzie, noticed odd and inconsistent information with details provided from the base.
As Guillen’s death gained less attention in the media, another Fort Hood soldier’s passing was spread across social media and news outlets. Less than two months after Guillen’s body was found, 23-year-old Sgt. Elder Fernandes was reported missing. On August 25th, Fernandes was found hanging from a tree in Temple, Texas and his death was ruled a suicide.
There’s an extensive list of names and stories just like Guillen’s and Fernandes’s. Recurring deaths on a military base shouldn’t feel normalized. Bodies being discovered, missing people, and long investigations shouldn’t be classified as random coincidence.
According to a New York Times article, “Since January 2016, there have been 159 noncombat deaths of Fort Hood soldiers, including seven homicides and 71 suicides.” There have been 28 deaths this year alone. Unfortunately, many of these tragic deaths go unnoticed by the media including the unsolved homicides related to Fort Hood.
The Unsolved Murders:
On April 17, 2017, 19-year-old, Pvt. Justin Lewis, was found dead from gunshot wounds in a parking lot in Killeen. He had been assigned to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment in Fort Hood in February 2017. No suspects have been found related to his case.
Morales’s remains were found during the search for Guillen’s body on a field in Killeen on June 19, 2020. He was days away from being discharged and disappeared shortly after going to a club. There were inconsistencies in his disappearance that raised red flags. IE: phone calls left unanswered and his car going missing and later being sold at auction. There was no real search for Morales prior to his remains being discovered.
Spc. Shelby Jones, 20-year-old, cavalry scout died March 1, 2020 from a gunshot wound in Killeen after paramedics tried to save his life. He had been assigned to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment since August 2018 and was deployed to Iraq from May 2018 to January 2019. There are no known suspects in his case.
The deaths and unsolved homicides are bigger than what it seems. Guillen’s disappearance and death have raised awareness surrounding the crimes at Fort Hood. As of September 2020, Congress announced that the Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on National Security and the Committee on Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Military Personnel are investigating the crimes and leadership responses at Fort Hood.
The public wants answers about the patterns of crimes, personnel turning a blind eye, and major systemic issues. Pressures from the media and protestors have opened the floodgates about the negligence at Fort Hood. A military base with a broken system needs to get to the root of their rinse and repeat approach to crime and find justice for the men and women who put their lives on their line and died on American soil.