BROCKTON, Mass. — The body of Army Sgt. Elder Fernandes was brought home to Massachusetts Tuesday, a week after the Brockton native was found dead, hanging from a tree about 30 miles from where he was stationed at Fort Hood in Texas.
“He was a wonderful guy, he’s only 23,” said his aunt, Isabel Fernandes. “This wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“He is someone that is selfless. He joined the Army to help, to protect us, and the US Army — the government — failed him,” she said.
Army officials said Fernandes reported that he was a victim of sexual assault in May, but the Army determined it was unsubstantiated. Fernandes was last seen on August 17 by members of his unit at a home in Killeen, Texas, outside of the base, the same day he was released from the hospital.
“He’s not someone that would just go and not call. This is not him. Mom talked to him every day. Every day when he was at the hospital,” his aunt said.
Fernandes was the 10th soldier to go missing from Fort Hood this year. On Tuesday, the Army announced a change in leadership at the Texas base. The Army said in a statement Tuesday that Maj. Gen. John B. Richardson IV will formally assume duties as deputy acting senior commander of Fort Hood starting Wednesday.
Last Tuesday, family members got the heartbreaking news, that Fernandes’ body was found hanging in a tree about 25 miles away.
“Whatever is hidden in there needs to come out,” said John Sequeira, Fernandes’ uncle.
Fernandes is one of more than 10 soldiers who have gone missing or died from the base since January. In April, Specialist Vanessa Guillen went missing, and her remains were found in June.
Tuesday afternoon, the Army announced the commander of Fort Hood is being removed from his position after a series of incidents.
“They owe the family answers, they let them down, they owe the family answers,” said Leonard Kesten, an attorney with Brody, Hardoon, Perkins & Kesten LLP, who is representing the family.
“We deserve justice we owe it to him. He’s signed up to protect, and he wasn’t protected,” said Isabel Fernandes.
Sgt. Fernandes served in Germany before heading to Fort Hood. He leaves behind five siblings. The investigation continues.
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