Posts tagged with "marines"

Guillen illustration

The Murder of Fort Hood Soldier, Vanessa Guillen

By Emmet McGeown


“How can this happen on a military base? How can this happen while she was on duty? How can this just happen and then let it go under the rug like it was nothing?” These were the words of Mayra Guillen, sister of Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, who has been missing for months and is now confirmed dead.  

On April 22nd, Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old Hispanic Small Arms and Artillery Repairer, went missing. She was last seen alive at a parking lot at squadron headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. For months, Pfc. Guillen’s family held out hope that their beloved was still alive, yet the discovery of remains near the Leon River, north of Austin, has vanquished that hope. While the FBI is still awaiting a positive DNA analysis, the family believes that the remains belong to Vanessa.  

Yet, this story does not begin with her disappearance nor does it end with her death. Prior to her vanishing, Pfc. Guillen, according to her sisters, was having difficulties with sexual harassment while stationed at Fort Hood, outside Killeen, Texas. The attorney representing the family in the case revealed that Guillen had confided to her sisters and several other soldiers that a superior had walked in on her while taking a shower and that he proceeded to sit down and watch her. Other relatives and Pfc. Guillen’s boyfriend have noted on social media that something is “not right” and that Vanessa felt unsafe at the military base.  

However, during a press conference on Thursday, July 2nd, senior special agent for the Fort Hood Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID), Damon Phelps, reported that there was no evidence backing the claim that she had been sexually harassed. He affirmed that “there has been no information — and we have interviewed hundreds of people… There is no credible information about that.” Despite this rebut by CID, family attorney, Natalie Khawam said, in an interview with PEOPLE, that she believes Pfc. Guillens was sexually harassed by Spc. Aaron David Robinson.

Spc. Robinson was the leading suspect in Vanessa Guillen’s disappearance, and as authorities caught up with him on Tuesday evening, he shot himself. It has since been revealed that Robinson was, in fact, responsible for the murder of Pfc. Guillen’s. Guillen’s was bludgeoned to death with a hammer in the armory where she worked, according to the family’s attorney. They made this discovery through an extensive investigation, in which witnesses divulged that they saw Robinson transporting a large box labelled “very heavy in weight.”

Then, after consenting to an examination of his cellphone records, court documents reveal, it was discovered that Robinson made several phone-calls to his girlfriend Cecily Aguilar on the night of Apri 22nd and into the early hours of the April 23rd. After being interviewed multiple times, Aguilar finally told investigators that her boyfriend had murdered Guillen. She also revealed how she and her boyfriend had met up and dismembered Guillen’s body together with a “hatchet or machete type knife” and, after attempting to set her corpse on fire, buried Guillen’s body parts in three different holes. Texas Rangers have since arrested Aguilar and she now faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.  

The issue of sexual harassment within the Army remains a problem in this case, given that Guillen’s family, according to their attorney, claimed that Vanessa was planning on reporting Robinson the day after she was murdered, and had delayed over fear of reprisal and inaction. Yet the Army says there exists no credible evidence that she was sexually harassed before her disappearance, and in a statement from the Fort Hood Press Center, officials said that the criminal investigation “has not found any connection between sexual harassment and Vanessa’s disappearance.” They plan to continue their investigation in light of new revelations. 

Lupe Guillen, another sister of Vanessa’s, told NPR that her sister wanted to be in the military since she was a little girl, “she wanted to be a fighter. She wanted to be a hero. She wanted to be someone in life. … The military failed her.

The family is now pushing for legislation to create an independent agency for soldiers who are victims of sexual harassment and assault. 

After a year Vanessa’s fiancé speaks out claiming “They failed us,” see the full ABC interview here.

For more updated information and to read other statements from family and friends click here.

It has been a year since Vanessa’s body was found and her family members, friends, and fellow military members still have many unanswered questions. While it is assumed that Vanessa’s killer was one of another soldier stationed at Fort Hood in Texas, Aaron Robinson, the army is still investigating. Her fiancé spoke to ABC last week, discussing his anger and frustration at the lack of answers and closure he, her family and friends have. Many are upset with how the Army handled the situation and investigation. Interrogating her friends instead of going after Robinson, who many suspected from the beginning.

Her family now hopes that the “I Am Vanessa Guillen” bill, which will make sexual harassment a crime in military law will be approved and help prevent other soldiers from being harassed while defending their country, and other families from feeling the loss they do.

Stay tuned to 360 Magazine for more updates and links to current articles and videos.

ABC will also be airing coverage every week until someone is convicted.

Zoo illustration by Maria Soloman for 360 Magazine, toys for tots

TOYS FOR TOTS ANNOUNCES 2020 CAMPAIGN RESULTS 

Toys for Tots, the U.S. Marine Corps’ premiere community outreach program, delivered a record setting 20.2 million toys to 7.4 million less fortunate children in 2020.

2020 was a year unlike any other, causing economic devastation for so many. COVID-19 took hold early in the year, leaving many millions of families in dire need. While Toys for Tots is primarily known as a Christmastime charity, we did not want to wait until the holiday season to provide support. Marines are known for being the first to fight and for running toward the sound of battle. During the spring and summer of the COVID-19 crisis, Toys for Tots partnered with Good360 to provide immediate relief and assistance by distributing 2 million toys, games, and books to COVID-impacted families. These gifts provided many benefits during this extraordinary time of need. They helped to fight boredom, relieved anxiety in children, and facilitated a return to normalcy. The gifts even contributed to the educational development of our Nation’s children, especially while they’ve been out of school.

As the pandemic continued to spread–causing states and municipalities to impose significant restrictions–the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, in conjunction with Marine Forces Reserve, are looking ahead to the holiday season to making preparations for how best to collect and distribute toys to children in need.

COVID restrictions have greatly impacted our local campaign operations and significantly limited the number of volunteers permitted to help collect, sort, and distribute toys. In response, the Marines and local campaign coordinators of the Marine Toys for Tots Program rose to the occasion, and established over 800 local toy collection and distribution campaigns in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. As anticipated, the demand from families with children seeking support was much greater than the supply. But the Marines, in their typical fashion, found ways to improvise and adapt. They were very innovative about how they collected and distributed toys. They established curbside and drive-through collection and distribution methods, and enlisted support from other local social service agencies in order to accomplish the mission.

Seeing a deficit of over a million toys develop in November, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation sent out many communications soliciting for help. The American public heard our appeal and recognized the need for aid. Hundreds of thousands of individuals, as well as a record number of organizations serving as National Corporate Sponsors, answered our call. Significant donations allowed for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation to augment local toy drives with over 8 million toys, valued at over $77 million.

Toys for Tots does not set a goal of children supported in a given year–rather, our goal is to support every family with children seeking our assistance. The American public has never let Toys for Tots down. With the help from so many, Toys for Tots was able to accomplish our mission distributing a record number of over 20 million toys to 7.4 million children, who otherwise would have gone without. “Unprecedented” seems to be the buzz word for most 2020 events, and there’s no better way to describe the generosity of the American public and our Corporate Sponsors – it was truly unprecedented. 

2020 Accomplishments

  • Distributed 20 million toys to 7.4 million less fortunate children from 808 local campaigns in all 50 states
  • Distributed over 2 million toys, books, and games to COVID-impacted families outside of the holiday season
  • Distributed 1.8 million books to children through the Toys for Tots Literacy Program
  • Distributed toys to 180,000 children through the Toys for Tots Native American Program
  • With support from Toys for Tots Sponsors, augmented local toy drives with over 8 million toys valued at over $77 million
  • Met all 20 standards of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance and maintained a 96:4 Program to Support Ratio

About Marine Toys for Tots

Toys for Tots, a 73-year national charitable program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, provides happiness and hope to less fortunate children.  The toys, books, and other gifts collected and distributed by the Marines offer these children recognition, confidence, and a positive memory for a lifetime. It is such experiences that help children become responsible citizens and caring members of their community. Last year, the Marine Toys for Tots Program fulfilled the holiday hopes and dreams of over 7 million less fortunate children in over 800 communities nationwide.  Since 1947, over 272 million children have been assisted. The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is a non-for-profit organization authorized by the U.S. Marine Corps and the Department of Defense to provide fundraising and other necessary support for the annual Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.  For more information, visit www.toysfortots.org.

Dark Sky Movement

Once monthly from May through October Holiday River Expeditions (http://www.bikeraft.com/) shares the mystery and romance of the Dark Sky with star-struck guests who are participating in one of this veteran travel company’s 2018 Stargazing adventures.

“It’s easy to get excited about this special trip series. Seeing how it has deepened our guests’ understanding and our guides’ awareness of the night sky is reason enough to offer these trips,” said Lauren Wood, Holiday Trip Director. “The inexplicable boundlessness you feel staring up at the stars is just a bonus.”

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2017 EOD Undefeated Bike Ride

EOD Warriors Hold 2017 EOD Undefeated Long Distance Bicycle Ride to Benefit Bomb Disposal Techs

Cycling enthusiasts can choose a ride to raise money for the mission of helping EOD Warriors

On Saturday October 7, 2017 the annual EOD Undefeated Bike Ride will kick off at locations around the country, benefitting the EOD Warrior Foundation. The annual fundraiser will offer various ride distances, some spanning two days and over 150 miles, giving cyclists various rides to choose from, while supporting a great cause. Ride participants include wounded EOD warriors, active duty military Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians, veterans and civilians. All funds raised from the event go to support the EOD Warrior Foundation’s mission to improve the quality of life for the EOD family by providing financial relief, scholarship opportunities, physical, social, and emotional support.

“This is our largest annual fundraising event, and it is one that people look forward to year after year,” explains Nicole Motsek, executive director of the EOD Warrior Foundation.

The 2017 EOD Undefeated Bike Ride has routes scheduled that go through San Diego and Orange County in California, as well as Gulf Coast ride from the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. There are additional rides scheduled in Denver, Virginia Beach, and there is a virtual ride option in Texas or on your own. There are various pledge amounts and ride lengths to choose from, including 6 miles, 25 miles, 60 miles, 100 miles, and 200 miles, giving everyone an opportunity to join in.

The annual EOD Undefeated Ride was started by Navy EOD Commander Kevin Childre. He passed away in 2015 as a result of injuries he sustained during a bicycle accident while raising awareness for the EOD Warrior Foundation. The annual ride that he started has not only raised over $2 million for in support of EOD Warriors, it also helps keep his memory and passion alive.

“Those who love to bike can take a beautiful ride and raise money to help bomb disposal technicians,” added Motsek. “Get registered, air up your tires, and enjoy a day of exercise and camaraderie all in the name of fun and charity. It will be a great day for everyone involved.”

The rides that have been staged include:

  • West coast 2-day ride – October 7-8, 2017, starting from Carlsbad, Calif. This route offers a scenic coastal ride, and a 4,900’ climb.
  • West coast 1-day ride – October 8, 2017, starting from Carlsbad, Calif.
  • Gulf coast 100/60/25/6 mile ride – October 8, 2017, starting from Eglin Air Force Base in Fla.
  • East coast ride – October 7, 2017, starting from Virginia Beach.
  • Denver ride – October 8, 2017, starting from Denver.
  • Virtual ride – October 7-15, 2017, starting from a location of your choosing.

To get more information and register for the 2017 EOD Undefeated Ride, visit: www.eodride.org.

The EOD Warrior Foundation is an organization that helps the families of the 7,000 people in our military who are Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians, and perform bomb disposal duties. Engaging in the most dangerous job in the military, EOD technicians often sustain serious injuries, lose limbs, or are killed in action. The EOD Warrior Foundation helps this elite group by providing financial relief, therapeutic healing retreats, a scholarship program, care of the EOD Memorial Wall located at Eglin AFB, Fla. and more. Their work is supported by private donations and the generosity of those who support the organization. To learn more about the EOD Warrior Foundation, or see their fundraising events calendar, visit their site at: www.eodwarriorfoundation.org.

About EOD Warrior Foundation

The EOD Warrior Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help EOD warriors and their family members with a priority on wounded EOD warriors and the families of fallen EOD warriors. Specific programs include financial relief, college scholarships, hope and wellness programs that include therapeutic healing retreats, and care for the EOD Memorial Wall located at Eglin AFB, Fla. To learn more about the EOD Warrior Foundation, or see their events calendar, visit their site at: www.eodwarriorfoundation.org.