HOUSTON — Nearly four months after her death, a memorial was held Friday for Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen in Houston.
Her casket was given a full police escort from Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery to Cesar E. Chavez High School in Houston. The casket was then moved into a horse-drawn carriage where it was carried to the entrance of the high school auditorium.
Family, friends and community members were able to honor, remember and speak on Spc. Guillen's behalf. Her sister, Lupe Guillen, spoke at the memorial, thanking her mother, Gloria, and calling her a fighter. She said today is not about getting justice, it's not about the #IAmVanessaGuillen bill, it's a day devoted to honoring Vanessa.
"As I said, I've been admiring you since day one because you're a fighter, you're a warrior," Lupe said. "You always stick to what you want. That's what you taught me throughout all these month. Go for it no matter what. You never up, you always chased your dream."
Hundreds showed up to pay their respects for the public viewing.
"Anyone is welcome to come by and pay their respects to U.S Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen," a post to the Find Vanessa Guillen page reads. "This event will be located at Chavez High School Auditorium, where she played soccer, track, cross country, and graduated top 15% of in 2018."
Watch the memorial on YouTube:
Masks will be required and social distancing will be enforced.
Here is an itinerary for the memorial service:
Memorial for slain Spc. Vanessa Guillen memorial at Cesar Chavez High School in Houston
Horse-drawn carriage ride
Guillen took her final trip in the same carriage that carried George Floyd to his final resting place. Vintage Horse Carriage Rides owner Terrence Reed will take her the final blocks to Chavez High School on Friday, then to her final resting place on Saturday.
"I offered them several carriages," said Reed. "They said they wanted the one George Floyd rode in."
She’ll arrive by hearse, then be transferred to the carriage.
“The family is going to march behind us. We’re going to take her to the school and they’re going to enter her into the school and reflect on her life," said Reed.
The family will walk with the carriage to the front of the school before they go inside the auditorium.
Custom-made casket for Vanessa Guillen
Soulshine Industries in Edna, Texas will be donating a custom casket for Guillen.
The owner of the company said he created the casket after reaching out to Guillen’s family to learn more about her.
The casket will include the American flag to represent her patriotism and the Mexican flag for her heritage. A soccer ball symbolizes Guillen’s love of sports and the Virgin Mary represents her faith, owner Troy Ganem told 6 News sister station KHOU 11.
Trae Tha Truth is taking one big burden off the family of Vanessa Guillen The Houston rapper has donated $30,000 to her family.
He said he understands what it takes to fight for a cause.
"They’re not going to be able to sit at work and be able to fight for her and travel or do things that need to be done," he said.
Houston Independent School District released a statement ahead of the memorial.
"The Houston Independent School District stands united with the family of U.S. Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen, a proud graduate of Chavez High School. At Chavez, she is remembered as an avid soccer player who was kind, hard-working, and passionate about making a positive difference in the world. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with her loved ones, including family, friends, former classmates, and former teachers."
The private funeral will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 15 it will be held at the Holy Name Catholic Church.
The burial will be at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery at 6900 Lawndale St.
Vanessa Guillen's Story
Guillen was killed on post April 22. Her family claimed she was being sexually harassed but Fort Hood investigators found no evidence supporting the claim.
An Army Criminal Investigation Division criminal complaint said Aaron Robinson killed Guillen in an armory room on post then, with the help of his girlfriend Cecily Aguilar, dismembered her body and buried the remains in three holes near the Leon River in Bell County.
The remains were found June 30. Robinson shot and killed himself in Killeen in the early morning hours of July 1. Aguilar was charged with conspiracy to tamper with evidence and was in the McClennan County Jail with no bond.
Aguilar's trial date was set Thursday for Sept. 28. A motion to issue a gag order on Guillen's family and their attorney was still pending. Judge Alan Albright was expected to make a ruling on the motion Sept. 8.
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy named five civilians on July 30 to be part of an independent review of the command climate and culture on post and in the surrounding military community around Fort Hood.
McCarthy said the panel will try to understand the root causes of felonies and violent acts.
McCarthy also said he launched Project Inclusion to address issues like lack of diversity, discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault and suicide.