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Massachusetts Congressional lawmakers are still pushing for answers, and reform, at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas after the death of a Brockton soldier who was stationed there.
In August, Sgt. Elder Fernandes was found dead, hanging from a tree 25 miles away from the base where his car is still parked.
Back in May, Fernandes reported that a superior had sexually assaulted him. The Army said there was no evidence. A Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office report states that Fernandes died by suicide, according to NPR.
The base in Killeen, Texas, has had a spate of disappearances, deaths and sexual assaults.
In a Zoom media conference Wednesday, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said getting to the bottom of issues at the base will honor the service of those in the military.
"We cannot ignore the depressed and demoralized experience the service men and women and their families are having there," she said.
"One of the military spouses said, 'Everyone knows Fort Hood is the place where Army careers go to die,' " Pressley recalled from her recent visit to the base. "The culture is toxic, it is systemic and we must continue to conduct vigilant oversight."
Rep. Stephen Lynch said when he visited Fort Hood, he was disappointed at the disorder.
"So many of these disappearances, I anticipated [the Army] had a plan and they had none," said Lynch, who represents the Congressional district where the Fernandes family lives.
Massachusetts Reps. Pressley, Lynch and Katherine Clark are planning a second visit to Fort Hood in a few months and hope their involvement will yield quicker reforms.
"When six or seven members of Congress show up on your doorstep, you start to pay attention," Lynch said.
And the Fernandes family hopes others are paying attention, too, because they want answers. There are several different investigations: one from the police department in Temple (where Fernandes was found), one from the Army, and one from Killeen (where Fort Hood is). But "the investigations are somewhat diffuse," said Leonard Kesten, the lawyer for the Fernandes family.
That's why the family has acquired Elder Fernandes' laptop, tablet and external hard drive, said Kesten, because neither the police nor the Army have seemed to show an interest. Kesten said now the challenge is to get past the password protection.
"It is very difficult for us [as private citizens] to do this," he said. "It'd be very easy for law enforcement."
The family is expecting the Temple Police Department's investigation to be completed soon.
Members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation are also pushing for the proposed Vanessa Guillen Act, named after another Fort Hood soldier who reported sexual assault and was later found dead. The act would create infrastructure in the military to address sexual misconduct.
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