The disappearance and killing of Vanessa Guillén, a U.S. Army specialist stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, in 2020 shook the nation and led to widescale changes in how the military protects victims of sexual violence.
On Saturday, a state highway in her hometown, Houston, will be named after the Mexican American soldier, part of a series of commemorations to honor her legacy.
Family and officials gathered on State Highway 3 in Harris County, between the intersections of Interstate Highway 45 and Almeda Genoa Road, to mark the naming of the Vanessa Guillén Memorial Highway.
The ceremony comes two years after Guillén, 20, was reported missing. She was last seen alive on April 22, 2020. Her disappearance garnered calls for an investigation from Latino civil rights groups and even international celebrities, including the actor Salma Hayek. Rep. Sylvia García, D-Texas, who was helping the Guilléns for months, echoed the importance of keeping the case in the public eye.
“She could have been any one of our daughters,” García previously told NBC News. “She could have been our niece, our granddaughter, everybody identified with it.”
Guillén’s remains were found near the base two months later. She was promoted to specialist posthumously. Spc. Aaron Robinson, 20, shot and killed himself when police moved in to arrest him in connection with Guillén’s disappearance and death, authorities said in July 2020.
Guillén’s murder galvanized a movement to end sexual violence in the military. Prior to her death, Guillén told relatives and colleagues at Fort Hood that she had been sexually harassed. This year, lawmakers passed the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act, which aims to protect victims of sexual violence in the military.
“The best way to honor my sister was by having history being made in her honor, in her memory,” Mayra Guillén, Vanessa’s older sister, said at a news conference in January.
The renaming ceremony is part of a series of commemorations for the slain soldier in Texas, including a series of 20 murals by local artists, one for each year of her life, reports KCEN-TV, an NBC affiliate. State lawmakers approved a bill to make Sept. 30, Guillén’s birthday, “Vanessa Guillén Day."
Last year, Fort Hood unveiled a gate named in her honor.