Murals of the late Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen have appeared around Texas honoring the life of the Fort Hood soldier, including murals in Houston, Austin and now Killeen.
The local mural is courtesy of California artist Cherine Mendoza and is in front of Sick Made Tattoo Parlor on Fort Hood Street. One side of the mural bears the image of Guillen with the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillén with two images of the Virgin Mary. The other side of the mural was left blank to allow members of the community to leave messages in support.
Dianna Royal, Killeen resident and Army veteran, came out to visit the mural Tuesday and pay her respects to Guillen.
“I think the mural is beautiful,” she said. “It is a great tribute to her. I actually was a sexual assault coordinator in the last five years of my military service in the 1st CAB (Combat Aviation Brigade).”
Royal said when she was in her position as a sexual assault coordinator she, always tried to make it to where soldiers could talk to her.
“You have to have someone regardless of battalion that you can talk to that is completely unbiased,” she said. “I just feel that we failed her, and I am heartbroken because I have a child of my own. To know that she had been missing that long — I am at a loss for words and my heart goes out to her family.”
Kenneth Hoover, another recent visitor to the mural, said Guillen’s death hits home for him as he has a lineage of veterans in his family.
“I support everything that she has done for our country,” he said.
“I am sad, man; for something like this to happen is inhumane, and her murderer did not get to have his justice served,” Hoover said, referring to the suicide of the soldier who was suspected of killing Guillen.
Sergio “Husky” Palomino, owner of Sick Made Tattoo, said he was approached by the League of United Latin American Citizens to paint a mural in Guillen’s honor outside of his shop.
“The artwork is beautiful and I am an artist myself, and I thought it being here would be a good place for the mural,” he said. “I previously had two signs up where the mural is now, and after talking with some of my friends we ended up building the area where Cherine could paint the mural.”
Mendoza flew in July 3 and got the mural done in a few days, Palomino said, adding that he allowed Guillen’s family to use his parking lot when they were protesting.
“I told her mother that I did not know what to tell her, but I told her that her family, if they needed to park their cars anywhere, that they could have half of my parking lot and that we were here for them.” he said. “If they needed water, to cool down or anything, they were free to ask. I have daughters myself, and I wanted to provide her some comfort and take care of Vanessa here. She will always be up.”