Hundreds attend public memorial for Spc. Vanessa Guillen held in Houston

Hundreds gathered to pay their respects to U.S. Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen at a public memorial service on Friday at her alma mater in Houston.

The memorial service began at noon at Cesar E. Chavez High School, with the public viewing being followed by a private rosary from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Those who attended had to wear a mask at all times and social distancing was enforced.

Guillen’s casket was carried by a horse-drawn carriage to the memorial service. Before arriving for the service, the carriage traveled around the track at Chavez High School, where Guillen played soccer.

The 20-year-old Army Specialist was killed while at Fort Hood. Her case sparked national outrage for the mishandling of her case by the leadership at the base. 

“I'd like to say investigate the military, investigate Fort Hood because there is a lot of misconduct going on. It’s been unaddressed and unannounced but now that we have the spotlight on Vanessa it's our time to confront and help get other people justice as well,” said Jordan Johnson, Guillen’s former classmate.

Alondra Rosales graduated with Guillen in 2018 and were both on the school’s cross country team. “She would put her whole heart into everything —100 percent. And, in cross country she was up in the front, leading everyone. A great motivator, honestly,” Rosales recalled.

Rosales says she began running again. “Sometimes I get tired and I’m like, ‘she wouldn't get tired’ and it really does motivate me,” Rosales added.

Veterans also attended the service to show their support.

“I served 21 years in the Army. I was actually stationed at Fort Hood. I'm from the same southeast Houston neighborhood as Specialist Guillen was from. The details and everything going on with her case, to me it was heartbreaking. As a veteran, we all like to stick together and show support for our fallen and for their families,” said Fernando Gonzalez.

“I have two daughters, when something like that happens it hits home. It touches all of us. Fathers, mothers, because we're not supposed to bury our children. It's sad,” said Alex Mitchell, a veteran.

Guillen will be laid to rest in a private ceremony on Saturday.

Natalie Khawam, who is representing the Guillen family, said the family is thankful to President Donald Trump because the White House helped to expedite the process of giving Guillen’s remains to the family so they could have a funeral. She said five military officers from Arlington National Cemetery will be in Houston for the ceremony to ensure the memorial is done as if she had been buried in Virginia.

“We look forward to celebrating her life as someone who not only gave to this community but also to this country,” Khawam said.

Guillen disappeared from Fort Hood, where she was stationed, on April 22, and Army officials confirmed on July 6 that her remains had been found. Investigators said she was bludgeoned to death on base by a fellow soldier, who later killed himself, according to a federal complaint.

Civilian Cecily Aguilar, 22, is charged with a federal count of conspiracy to destroy evidence in helping dispose of the body. She has pleaded not guilty and is being held at the Bell County Jail.

Guillen’s family has said she was sexually harassed by the fellow soldier suspected of killing her, but the Army has said there is no evidence of that.

MORE: Vanessa Guillén’s family continues their fight for justice ahead of funeral services


The Army is investigating Guillen’s death. Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy ordered an independent review of the command climate at Fort Hood following Guillen’s slaying.

Members of Congress have joined advocates for women demanding systemic shifts in military culture. Some have invoked the hashtag #NiUnaMas, meaning “not one more woman dead,” a rallying cry in Mexico against the murder of women.

MORE: Trump offers to help pay for Vanessa Guillen funeral

Trump met with the family in July, promising that the federal government would “get to the bottom” of Guillen’s slaying. Trump also pledge to help with the family’s funeral expenses.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.