President Donald Trump on Thursday met with the family of slain Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen and offered to pay for her funeral, as well as promising a rigorous investigation into her death at the U.S. Army post.
Aaron Robinson, 20, is suspected to have attacked and killed Guillen, and contacted his girlfriend to help dispose of Guillen’s body. He died by suicide by shooting himself after officers tried to make contact.
Trump invited Guillen’s family to the White House. Speaking to the family and reporters in the Oval office on Thursday, Trump said that he was impacted by the situation, which he described as “very horrific.”
“I saw what happened to your daughter, Vanessa, who was a spectacular person, and respected and loved by everybody, including in the military,” Trump told Guillen’s mother. He added that the FBI and Department of Justice are now involved in the case, as well as people at Fort Hood.
“We didn’t want to have this swept under the rug, which could happen,” Trump said.
Trump was surprised when he heard a funeral has not been held because investigators have not handed over Guillen’s remains to the family.
“You—you haven’t had a funeral? Because this is quite a while now,” Trump asked, and shortly later, adding, “it’s a terrible thing. When would you like to have the funeral? When?”
The family informed Trump that the funeral is planned to be in Houston and they would like it to take place as soon as possible.
“As soon as possible with the funeral,” the president said. “We’ll make sure—we’ll make sure that happens. Okay, please? … And if I can help you out with the funeral, I’ll help you with that.”
Trump offered to help financially, to which Attorney Natalie Khawam, a lawyer for Guillen’s family who is on the case pro bono, responded that the military will be paying for the funeral.
“If they need something, I’ll—we’ll take care—we’ll make sure she is very respected,” Trump then said.
Mayra Guillen, Vanessa’s sister, said the family had declined a military-style funeral.
“We actually declined because my mom didn’t want a military casket and stuff like that. Vanessa is very unique, so we wanted something unique for her. So far, a lot of people have been helping us, but it has been a rough three months,” she said.
Khawam told Trump that Robinson allegedly used a hammer and “bludgeoned [Guillen] to death.” Robinson then “carried her body out and he buried it in the river nearby. He used a machete,” Khawam said.
Trump later said “the good thing is that he’s gone,” adding, “now we’re going to go in to see what happened.”
Khawam said that she took part in drafting a bill, referred to as the #IAmVanessaGuillen bill to help victims of sexual harassment in the military. The bill would allow service members to report sexual harassment claims to a toll-free number. It is sponsored by Reps. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).
The family told Trump they hope to have his support with the bill.
“You will be making history within Vanessa, because we need a change, and the change is now. And we need something positive so the soldiers feel safe to be recruited, feel safe while serving their nation, feel honored to serve their nation, but to feel respected and safe, and that’s how the bill will help them. Because not only women—it’s also men. I have heard many stories. And hopefully we have your support,” Gloria Guillen, mother of the slain soldier, told Trump in remarks translated by her daughter Guadalupe.
“Well, you have our support, and we’re working on it already, as you know, and we won’t stop. And hopefully something very positive will come out in honor of your sister,” Trump said.
Trump concluded the meeting with the following remarks:
“I want to thank you all for being here. It’s a lot of courage actually. It takes a lot of courage. And your daughter is very respected,” Trump said, turning to Vanessa Guillen’s family. “And she’s respected by me, and you’re in the Oval Office. Your daughter would be very proud of you right now. She’s looking down. She’ll be very proud of you. So—and your sister. So we will get to the bottom of a lot of this, and maybe all of it. Okay?”