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A mural of Vanessa Guillen in Killeen keeps her story alive

"Vanessa is rising up in the face of the place that took her from her family," Los Angeles-area artist Cherine Mendoza said.

KILLEEN, Texas — Any driver exiting right from Fort Hood's Tank Destroyer Blvd exit will see the face of Vanessa Guillen. 

LULAC recruited Los Angeles-area Artist Cherine Mendoza to paint the mural after seeing previous work she had done honoring Guillen. Mendoza said she couldn't help but be moved after Guillen's mother cried for help from the public just two weeks ago. 

"I was really touched by her story. When I heard her mother speak at the press conference that really hit home," Mendoza said. "To hear the pain in her voice... she was pleading for help. She wanted her daughter to be found. I'm a mother."

Mendoza created a digital art piece on Instagram, which LULAC found. Mendoza said the organization wanted to create a mural right in front of Fort Hood so those on the post would see it every day. Area LULAC representatives worked with the Sick Made Tattoo Parlor on North Fort Hood Street to create a space for the mural to stay as a permanent art piece. 

“The whole focus is to make a big, big statement and to remind every soldier that goes into the base what happened and of Vanessa,” Mendoza said. “We want to keep Vanessa’s name alive." 

The mural serves as a place for community members to pay their respects for the Guillen family as a white wall at the back of the mural provides a space to leave signatures. Mendoza said it should also be a piece that pays respect to all people who may have suffered harassment in the military. 

"I also want to dedicate this to all women in the military that have similar stories,” Mendoza said. 

For LULAC, however, the mural is a constant reminder of the repeated call for change. 

"We will seek justice and we want to make sure she is not forgotten," LULAC District Director AnaLuisa Tapia said. "This is a daily reminder. We are not going anywhere. We are asking for answers and we are asking for the correct answers. We are asking for change." 

Tapia is calling for Fort Hood's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, or SHARP program, to be reworked from the ground up with greater oversight. 

"Something different but to protect our soldiers," Tapia said. 

The mural also features the #IAmVannessaGuillen hashtag that has begun to spread along with her story. 

"Just keep the issue and the story ongoing," Mendoza said. "That's why we want to put the hashtag and encourage everyone to come here and take a photo so that it's always trending."

Mendoza said she hopes the mural will eventually inspire big changes on post. 

"You're not going to forget her face," Mendoza said. 

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