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September 19, 2020

Congresswoman Pressley’s Remarks at Fort Hood Press Conference

Video (YouTube)

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), a member of the House Oversight Committee, today delivered remarks at a press conference during a Congressional Delegation trip to Fort Hood. The Congresswoman, along with seven of her House colleagues, visited Fort Hood as part of a Congressional investigation into the recent spike in reports of sexual harassment, missing persons, and deaths among servicemembers stationed at the military base.

A full transcript of her remarks is available below.

Transcript: Congresswoman Pressley’s Remarks at Fort Hood Press Conference
September 18, 2020

We come here today with heavy hearts, but resolved ones, that even when the headlines fade, that our conviction will not. James Baldwin said that not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. And today, we are here to confront, to face, the systemic hurt occurring here at Fort Hood.

In the last year alone, five homicides, seven suicides, eight accidental deaths, two by illness and five under investigation. What is going on at Fort Hood? We are desperate to know. Families are desperate to know how their loved ones met such a tragic or violent fate. Their loved ones who were patriots, who wanted to serve their country, to defend our Constitution, who have made selfless sacrifice to keep all of us safe, but whom we have failed to keep safe. Who defend our Constitution so that we can have freedom of speech, but many of them are afraid to speak out about the sexual misconduct, harassment, assault that they have experienced. And when hurt and violations in the most egregious ways have occurred, that there have been no clear avenues for healing or for justice.

Now, I’m not talking about what works on paper. We’re talking about what works in real life and has an integrity to it, and a safety to it, and is predictable and gets victims on a pathway to healing and to justice. Instead, their traumas are often met with more trauma. A culture here that is systemic and must change.

Now, I spoke — I’m from Massachusetts and I’m here in partnership with my colleagues in the Massachusetts delegation, Congressman Lynch, who represents Brockton, which is the community that Sergeant Elder Fernandes is from. I’m here with Katherine Clark, and I also want to acknowledge the good work of our State Representative Liz Miranda, who has also worked very closely with the family. I spoke with Elder’s aunt yesterday and I began the conversation by saying that we would get justice for her nephew. But the truth is, there can never be justice for Private First Class Vanessa Guillen’s family, or for Sergeant Elder Fernandes’ family, or for Private Gregory Wedel-Morales, because true justice would mean that they would still be here. There, however, must be accountability.

So in addition to coming from the Commonwealth and representing Massachusetts, I’m also here as a member of the Oversight Committee, in an investigative capacity to ask the questions. And truthfully, after today, I have more questions than I do answers. But it is our charge to be in efficient and effective pursuit of the truth. That is exactly what we will do. We will not go AWOL on these dedicated servicemen and women or the surviving family members of victims.

And I want to thank our Chair, Congresswoman Speier, and I want to thank Congresswoman Garcia, both of you for your steadfast leadership on behalf of all these issues, but in particular for the Guillen family, and we must pass The I Am Vanessa Guillen Act. And I think Representative Garcia was saying that in two weeks she would have turned 21 years old. September 30th. And so with that, I yield and I’ll turn it back to our Chair.

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