SAN ANTONIO – More than 500 vehicles filled the parking lot of NISD’s Athletic Complex on Saturday morning to honor the service and life of Fort Hood Army soldier, Vanessa Guillen.
The event was a community effort that began about a week ago on a local Jeep club’s Facebook page.
“It originally started with just one simple question of, ‘Who would be down to do a Jeep convoy in honor of Vanessa?‘” Melissa García said. García prompted the question and expected about 30 Jeeps would participate in a convoy through San Antonio. However, participation grew quickly.
“People just kept reaching out and saying they were all in,” García said. “You can just see the support that San Antonio and the military community and veterans have out here for (Guillen’s) family.”
Participants were all asked to wear masks and remain in their cars during the convoy. They came together to protest cases of sexual harassment in the military not being investigated.
“This is a good feeling (to have so many people support) because despite all our differences and (with) everything going on (in the world due to the pandemic), we can come together for a common cause,” Abel Gonzales said. Gonzales helped spread the word about the convoy to other vehicle clubs in the area.
Other community members like Nina Ramos also stepped up to help organize the event. Ramos helped direct more than 500 vehicles that quickly filled up the parking lot at NISD’s Athletic Complex on Saturday morning.
She was encouraged to get involved after hearing the family of Guillen make a public plea. “(After) watching Vanessa’s mother on the interviews (to the media), no mother should be begging the U.S. government to bring their daughter home on U.S. soil,” Ramos said. “We need to keep her voice alive.”
SAPD Traffic Control helped lead hundreds of motorcycles, trucks, jeeps and cars head west on Loop 410, down I-35 South, ending at the local coffee shop on the city’s South Side, Café Azteca.
Café Azteca announced their Saturday proceeds will be donated to the Guillen family for support in demanding justice for the murdered soldier whose remains were found buried on June 30.
“We want there to be change,” Ramos said. “There needs to be accountability for the people in charge, for the people in command. (The Army) needs to see that this isn’t going to get swept under the rug. This isn’t going to go away.”
Now, it appears the Army is listening. The secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy said they will conduct a thorough and independent review of Guillen’s case, as well as look into the command culture at Fort Hood and the surrounding military community.