HOUSTON — Flags from the U.S., Texas and Mexico flew at half staff Friday as a white, horse-drawn carriage embellished with white flowers brought in the custom green casket that carried the remains of a slain soldier.
Vanessa Guillen, who was last seen on April 22, was memorialized nearly four months after she is said to have been killed by a fellow soldier at Fort Hood, a U.S. Army base in Texas. Mourners gathered at Cesar Chavez High School in Houston, where Guillen grew up playing soccer and dreaming of joining the military.
“She’s very happy where she is next to God and the Virgin Mary,” Lupe Guillen said. “We are not here for justice or politics today. We are here to remember, honor and respect Vanessa Guillen and her beautiful life, her tender heart and her beautiful face.”
In a private moment just before entering the school’s auditorium, where flowers in green and yellow hues, balloons, religious images and pictures of Guillen adorned the stage, family and friends walked behind the casket, accompanying Guillen on a last lap around the field she frequented as a teenager. Guillen’s mother and grandmother grasped each other as they prayed over the casket through sobs.
The Roman Catholic service was open to the public and was being streamed online, with praise sessions, prayers and testimonials.
Guillen’s story renewed a push for changes in the way the military handles sexual abuse and harassment from Fort Hood to Capitol Hill.
Natalie Khawam, who is representing the Guillen family, said the family is thankful to President Donald Trump because the White House helped to expedite the process of giving Guillen’s remains to relatives so they could have a funeral.
Guillen disappeared from Fort Hood, where she was stationed, on April 22. Army officials confirmed July 6 that her remains had been found. Investigators said she was bludgeoned to death on base by a fellow soldier, who later killed himself, according to a federal complaint.