Several members of the Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus are calling for Congress to investigate the recent deaths of several soldiers on or near the Fort Hood Army post, including that of Spc. Vanessa Guillen who is suspected to have been murdered by a fellow soldier.
State Sen. José Menéndez, caucus chair, is the latest member to call for that inquiry. He told Texas Standard that, “for military families with loved ones serving at Fort Hood to feel secure and confident, I think they need to see Congress has ordered a third party [to investigate], that has nothing to do with the chain of command.”
The Army is launching its own “in-depth” investigation into possible chain-of-command issues that may have led to Guillen’s death. That comes as a new head of Fort Hood takes over Wednesday. Former commander, Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, was supposed to leave to run the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, but the Army removed him from that position.
Fort Hood has been criticized for its handling of Guillen’s case. But hers is not the only one recently. Another soldier, Sgt. Elder Fernandes, went missing, and was later found dead last month. Other soldiers were arrested for involvement in a prostitution ring, and there’s been a higher-than-average rate of suicide among soldiers there over the last decade.
Menéndez said these problems have become “pervasive.” It’s not clear to him why they are happening, and he wondered whether some of the incidents might be connected. He doesn’t doubt that the military could do a thorough investigation, but bringing in independent experts could help restore the public’s faith. Otherwise, he said it could be perceived as the fox guarding the hen house.
Menéndez said it’s also puzzling how all of this is taking place on a military post where the culture is supposed to be dominated by order and structure.
“How is it possible that people who served in our armed forces can be murdered here [in] their own home country?” he said.
He said pushing for an independent investigation isn’t unpatriotic, and he isn’t worried about the military interpreting it that way. It’s actually “the most patriotic thing we can do,” he said.
“[To] tell every young man and woman, every person who enlists, ‘We’ve got your back; we care more about all of you who have signed that check for this country … than worrying about some general,’ ” he said.