The cousin of a teenager who dreamed of joining the military before he was killed in a school shooting last month organized a vigil Sunday on Okinawa to honor the boy and his fallen classmates.
On May 18, a 17-year-old student walked into a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, with two of his father’s guns and shot at least 20 people — 10 of them fatally. Eight of the dead were students; two were teachers.
Marine spouse Kalynn Domokos lost her cousin, 15-year-old Christian Riley Garcia, in the shooting. The 2012 Santa Fe High School graduate lives at Camp Courtney, Okinawa, and couldn’t make it home to the teen’s funeral, so she held a memorial in Japan for the victims instead.
“Being a military family, people often ask where we’re from. I always get the “[Santa Fe] New Mexico?” response,” Domokos said at the vigil. “But after this horrible event, our small town is now known across the world.”
She and some fellow Americans placed 10 stakes into the sand at Toguchi Beach. Atop each post was the photo and name of one of the victims. Lit candles and bouquets were laid beside them.
Domokos spoke to a group of about a dozen people who gathered to pray and reflect.
“God promises that all pain, heartache and mourning will end,” she said. “I ask that you all keep these families and the Santa Fe community in your prayers as they now must begin to heal from this heartache.”
Domokos also spoke about her cousin, who put himself in front of a door as a blockade so his classmates could escape. Garcia died after bullets passed through the door and hit him.
“At just 15 years old, he had plans to serve his country after graduating,” Domokos said. “Riley no longer has the opportunity to wear the uniform, but I believe he served his people as any other servicemember would have.”
Domokos said Garcia, who went by his middle name, was active in his church, enjoyed hunting, played football for the high school and was a “big brother and a wonderful son.”
“Riley was taken too soon,” she said. “But God put him on this Earth for a reason — to protect and serve his people, and he did just that.”
The other victims were Glenda Ann Perkins, Chris Stone, Angelique Ramirez, Cynthia Tisdale, Jared Black, Kimberly Vaughan, Aaron Kyle McLeod, Sabika Sheikh and Shana Fisher.
Domokos’ friend, Michelle Barone, said she attended the vigil to support Domokos and pay respects to the victims.
“The pain this tragedy has caused has no bounds, and we just want to offer comfort to our friend and honor those who have senselessly lost their lives,” Barone said. “We’re so far from home, and for her – for anyone who has a loss – you want to mourn the person, and it’s hard to be so far away from family.”
Since the shooting, Domokos said she worries the Santa Fe students won’t have the carefree, “amazing” high school experiences she had at the school.
“Every day that I attended school, I never had a worry in the world besides my next practice or game,” she said. “Now, the wonderful school I grew up in will never be the same.”
In a circle-of-life moment, Domokos said that after the vigil, attendees took the bouquets to the Naval Hospital in Camp Foster to give out. The flowers brightened the days of four expectant mothers, a surgery patient and five medical professionals.
© 2018 the Stars and Stripes
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