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Candlelight Memorial for fallen soldier

Maria, Aiyana, and Sophia Garcia pay their respects in a moment of silence for fallen soldier Vanessa Gullen on Friday evening at the Veteran’s Memorial Park. [Jennifer Blue • Pioneer Review • © 2020]

Residents set up a candlelight memorial to honor a slain Fort Hood soldier in Colusa at the Veteran’s Memorial Park on Friday.

Aiyana Garcia from Colusa said that she was moved by the story of Spc. Vanessa Gullen, a soldier who had gone missing.

“I found it necessary to bring awareness to this problem in our community and honor Vanessa’s memory,” said Garcia.

Gullen had lodged complaints of sexual harassment prior to being bludgeoned to death with a hammer on April 22. Authorities later found her mutilated body, which they said was a disposal effort by the assailant to hide her remains.

Army officials’ investigation is under scrutiny for failing to thoroughly search for Guillen who had gone missing. The command at Fort Hood is also being reviewed for treatment of enlisted women and Hispanic service members. Guillen’s family announced a proposal of a bill to help military victims of sexual harassment in the military. The bill will be introduced on July 30 in Washington during a congressional news conference.

Garcia, her cousins, mother, and sister stood in silence on Friday as the sun set and their candles illuminated a poster of Gullien along with fresh flowers in front of the flagpole at the center of the park’s brick wall memorial. Meanwhile a recording of mariachi music softly played. “It’s kind of odd when you think about it because when you think of mariachi, you think happy upbeat music. But it’s a normal thing to bring a mariachi to a funeral and have them play.”

Garcia said she felt that the Veteran’s Memorial Park was an appropriate place to hold the memorial and that she intends to pick up the remains of candles and flowers in a week.

“When I first heard of Vanessa Guillen’s story I was completely devastated that something like that could happen on a U.S army base and even more disappointed in the way it was handled,” Garcia said. “I hope that this vigil will bring awareness to Vanessa’s unfortunate situation and will inspire the people of Colusa County to step up and demand justice for Vanessa so we can ensure that something like this never happens again.”

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