Historic military reforms are heading to President Biden's desk to be signed. The bill will change how the military handles crimes, such as sexual assaults, following the tragic loss of Fort Hood soldier, Vanessa Guillen.
A drive around Houston and you’ll see the face of Vanessa Guillen, a Houstonian who touched many hearts.
"My mom usually calls her an angel and that her purpose in this world was to give hope to those victims, thousands of them," said Mayra Guillen, her sister.
Mayra spoke with FOX 26 from Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. She was in the senate chamber as the Military Justice Reform Bill, inspired by the tragic loss of Vanessa, was passed. It’s a historic moment as these reforms are considered to be one of the most significant changes to the military justice system.
"To see it finally get done, it is a big accomplishment," said Mayra.
The measure for the first time would strip authority from military commanders and give it to independent prosecutors when involving allegations of sexual assault and other serious crimes.
"It marked history in my sister’s honor. We have never seen change like this in history before," said Mayra.
She says the family tries to see the silver lining in their loss and hopes their fight will help members in the future.
The Department of Defense released their annual sexual assault in the military report. In 2020, there were 7,816 reported assaults. 6,290 involved allegations from service members for incidents that occurred during military service.
"We see the hashtags, I am Vanessa Guillen, it shows how many stories are out there countless victims," said Mayra
The U.S. Army in April acknowledged that Vanessa was sexually harassed by a superior and was at risk. She was declared missing, her skeletal remains were found months later.
"It’s never going to be the same, but we can only try to push each other to keep doing our very best," said Mayra. "And remember Vanessa in her happiest moments, see that she is being honored in the best way possible."