Three Years After Vanessa Guillén’s Murder, Another Latina Soldier Found Dead at the Same Texas Military Base
A clear pattern of egregious harassment and violence is rearing its ugly head at the Fort Hood army base in Texas, where reports of the second suspicious death of a young Latina female soldier since 2020 have just emerged.
Pvt. Ana Basaldua Ruiz, 21, a combat engineer on the base, died on March 13, according to reporting from CBS. Basaldua Ruiz’s family told Telemundo that base officials are ruling the death as a suicide. But they say they are still in the dark about the circumstances of the supposed suicide, the timeline, and how it could have happened. Basaldua Ruiz’s mother also says her daughter confided she was being sexually harassed at work by a superior officer and others, which the base officials have not commented on.
“Army CID will continue to conduct a thorough investigation and gather all evidence and facts to ensure they discover exactly what transpired. Information related to any possible harassment will be addressed and investigated fully,” Fort Hood officials said in a news release.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time. She was an exceptional teammate that will truly be missed,” added Lt. Col. Patrick Sullivan, commander, 91st Engineer Battalion, as if anyone actually still believes “thoughts and prayers” means anything besides an obvious brushoff.
The circumstances of Basaldua Ruiz’s death come on the heels of an eerily similar and tragic death of 20-year-old Army Specialist Vanessa Guillén on the same Fort Hood base back in 2020. After Guillén reported sexual harassment from fellow soldiers on base, she went missing and was later found murdered, presumably by a fellow soldier who shot himself before he could be prosecuted.
Guillén’s death prompted a new Fort Hood Independent Review Committee to investigate how sexual harassment and assault were present and dealt with on the base. A list of 70 recommendations was released in 2021 for how to better deal with the kind of circumstances that lead to Guillén’s death, but Basaldua Ruiz’s death seems to be proof that it’s not working.
Lucy Del Gaudio, a spokesperson for Basaldua Ruiz’s family said their daughter’s death is “reliving Vanessa Guillén again. It shows that all the leg work that we worked on diligently, the promises the Department of Defense made, and actions made against Fort Hood, were not taken seriously. Harassment is still prevalent and they need to address it.”
Guillén’s sister, Mayra Guillen, tweeted on Wednesday about the eerily similar death, saying, “I’m aware of the death of Ana Basaldua in Ft Hood, TX. May she Rest In Peace. She was only 21 years old…I will be speaking to the family soon, I find it very sensitive to speak on something I’m not fully aware off yet and this is also very triggering for me… I need to gather my thoughts and then I’ll be able to share them. I’ve gotten a number of request for media interviews as well, please stand by.”
Antonio Arellano, the vice president of communications at NextGen America, tweeted, “Three years after the murder of Fort Hood Army Spc. Vanessa Guillé, Pvt. Ana Basaldua Ruiz was found dead on Monday at the same military base. Her mother says Ana was being sexually harassed at the base. Fort Hood has had over 50 deaths in the last 5 years.”
He then wrote about the steps the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee had taken, which have so far proven ineffective, saying, “In 2020, a Fort Hood independent review committee found “ineffective implementation of the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program that resulted in a pervasive fear of retaliation, and significant underreporting of cases within the enlisted ranks.”
Both Ana Basaldua Ruiz and Vanessa Guillén had more in common than their both being Latina. They also had more in common, I’m sure, than both being young, female soldiers suffering sexual harassment in their workplaces. One more thing they definitely have in common is a community of people left alive who will not forget the circumstances of their deaths and will not forget why we need real change about the way women of color and other marginalized people are treated in military situations.
(featured image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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