Hostilities on the field of combat are plenty dangerous. Soldiers have less concern about being killed or hurt when in the U.S. at their home base. Sadly, that was not the case for three soldiers stationed at Fort Hood, Texas: “Home of America’s Armored Corps.”
The U.S. Army installation located in the city of Killeen is named after Confederate General John Bell Hood. Hood’s name, however, is likely to be erased from the front gate, sacrificed on the altar of removing anything “Confederate” from our history. Graham Noble explains the congressional effort to remove from our memories the Confederate generals’ names that have fallen into ill favor in his Liberty Nation article Erasing the Confederacy: Dem Spending Bill Demands It, But Why? The names of the soldiers whose bodies were found over the past month, and who called Fort Hood home, will not be erased or forgotten.
In a July 22 Associated Press article, a map shows where the three soldiers’ bodies were found in proximity to Fort Hood and the greater Killeen city area. Two of the soldiers were Private Gregory Scott Wedel-Morales, 24, from Sapulpa, Oklahoma, and Specialist Vanessa Guillén, 20, from Houston, Texas. She joined the Army in June of 2018.
The latest victim, Private Mejhor Morta, whose hometown was Pensacola, Florida, was found near Stillhouse Hollow Lake (#3 on the map of the Fort Hood – Killeen area). Private Morta was pronounced dead soon after his body was discovered. Local law enforcement has not speculated on whether Morta died under suspicious circumstances.
Additionally, U.S. Army investigators have offered no explanation for Private Morta’s death and very little information about precisely where his body was found. Based on reporting by The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Neil Shah, Private Morta was a well-respected and well-liked member of the 1st Battalion of the 5th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division. Lieutenant Colonel Neil Armstrong, Morta’s commander, said: “Private Morta was a great Trooper, and this loss is felt by every member within our formation.” Bell County Sherriff’s Department is investigating the facts and events that are relevant to Morta’s death. The latest information indicates that preliminary findings are that Private Morta drowned, but the local Justice of the Peace, Garland Potvin, ordered a more extensive autopsy.
Specialist Guillén’s dismembered remains were found on June 30 near the intersection of the Leon River and Road 436. (#2 on the map). We know more about the disappearance on April 22 of Specialist Guillén, since, according to authorities, she allegedly was bludgeoned to death by a fellow soldier, Specialist Aaron David Robinson, at the Fort Hood armory. Unfortunately, we may never know the motive or many of the circumstances that surround the brutal killing. In an article by Kyle Rempfer in the Army Times, Specialist Robinson, when confronted by law enforcement officers, took out a gun and killed himself.
Guillén’s family lawyer Natalie Khawam revealed that Guillén was the victim of sexual harassment. “We believe the person who killed her is the person that sexually harassed her,” Khawam said. The Army has opened a separate sexual harassment investigation with emphasis on the programs in the Army and at Fort Hood that are supposed to address and reduce the incidents of sexual harassment.
In the case of Private Morales, he had been missing and presumed to be Absent Without Leave since August of 2019. Finding his skeletal remains at the end of a Killeen street cul-de-sac (#1 on the map) on June 19, the Army confirmed that Morales was not a deserter and most likely was the victim of foul play. The Fort Hood Government Press Center put out a press release that stated:
“Foul play is suspected at this point in the investigation. Army Special Agents are working closely with the Killeen Police Department. They are offering a reward of up to $25,000 to anyone with credible information concerning the circumstances surrounding the death of Morales.”
Private Morales had been assigned to the 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division in November of 2016, and was scheduled to separate from the Army just a few days after his disappearance. Morales’ family has been highly critical of the Army and its failure to aggressively investigate the death of Private Morales. In a Fox News story, reporter Danielle Wallace quotes Nick Wedel, Morales’s younger brother: “They didn’t do any real searching until they got a lead. If an M16 goes missing, they shut down an entire unit to find it. Why don’t they do that with people?”
Three soldiers, all tragically lost in one month. Each had a unique story.
There was apparently nothing to connect the victims, except that all were willing to serve their country. There may be, however, a lesson that binds these untimely deaths. Units that we expect to fight our nation’s battles must have leadership from division commanders down to squad leaders that know each of their troops, their families, and their personal trials. None must be lost in the crowd.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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