Veteran to Run 76 Miles in Honor of Vanessa Guillen
It's been almost a year since Vanessa Guillen was reported missing from Fort Hood. The attention her case brought to the installation and others who've gone missing or been found dead around it set off an avalanche of investigations and calls for changes to military culture and how our men and women in uniform are treated when they come forward with allegations of abuse and harassment.
In the face of tragedy, human beings are always looking for something positive to take away and keep hope alive. For Petty Officer Tina Casanova, that something was finding the strength to break her silence and find an outlet for her pain.
WOAI-TV recently featured an article about Casanova, who says she was a victim of sexual abuse and harassment while serving in the military from 2004 to 2009. She told WOAI she never reported what happened to her because she thought remaining silent would make her stronger. She instead took up running as a way of dealing with what she experienced.
When reports of Vanessa Guillen's plans to report sexual harassment before her disappearance emerged, Casanova says she was inspired to start speaking out, and says other women who've served have confided their experiences to her.
Now she wants to channel her passion for running into an awareness campaign. She plans to run 76 miles (a mile for each day Vanessa Guillen was missing) from Fort Sam Houston to the State Capitol in Austin.
"The predators are protected by our silence," Casanova told WOAI. "If we're talking, that's one of the biggest things that's going to drown them out. Silence is not strength."
Casanova's ultimate goal is to inspire the creation of laws and penalties to help victims of sexual assault and harassment within the military feel that they can come forward safely. A piece of legislation meant to help with that process, titled the 'I Am Vanessa Guillen Act', did not pass Congress last year. It's expected to be considered this year.
Check out the interview with WOAI here.
Late last month, Fort Hood officials released a 60-Day Update concerning their progress in implementing policies recommended by an independent review of the base.
Meanwhile, KCEN-TV recently reported that the trial of Cecily Aguilar, believed to be an accessory to helping suspected murderer Aaron Robinson hide Vanessa Guillen's body, has once again been delayed. So, while Fort Hood looks to be taking steps to help prevent future tragedies, Guillen's family is still awaiting justice.