Yountville shooting victims remembered at memorial

A capacity crowd packed the Lincoln Theatre on the grounds of the California Veterans Home, to honor three mental health workers, killed by a former patient they had tried to help.

The service, billed as a Celebration of Life, was held just steps away from the building where the women were gunned down only ten days earlier. 

"This was our sanctuary, "said Chaplain Ira Book, "and in the blink of an eye, everything changed. Our home has been violated, but we shall recover."

Killed were the core staff of The Pathway Home, a nonprofit counseling program helping Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffering from PTSD heal and reintegrate into society. 

Clinical Director Jennifer Golick, Executive Director Christine Loeber, and Clinical Psychologist Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba were remembered for their dedication to veterans and mental health. 

"I am a Marine Corp veteran, and invaded Iraq fifteen years ago today," said Zach Skiles, a graduate of The Pathway Home, who asked other successful graduates in the audience stand and be recognized. 

Over the years, the private program has treated hundreds of returning veterans. 

"Please stay with us, don't give up on us," board chairwoman Dorothy Salmon told the crowd.

The Pathway Home has suspended its work since the killings, but founders want it to survive. 

"This program will go on, and it will go on because we care so much, and the community cares so much and because of the love we all have for Christine and Jennifer and Jenn," said Salmon. 

Congressman Mike Thompson addressed the victims families directly, as they sat in the front rows, some wiping away tears. 

"I'm so sorry for your terrible loss," said Thompson, calling the women "incredible", for getting up every morning to improve the lives of others. 

"They were devoted to our veterans, and service was their calling, and nothing could get in the way of their devotion to help others." 

What ended their work, and their lives, was a client who had been dismissed from the program, 36-year-old Army veteran Albert Wong, who slipped into a meeting, heavily armed, and killed himself after shooting each woman to death.

Gonzales Shushereba was expecting her first child in June. 

"Five lives were destroyed, including TJ's and Jennifer's unborn baby," said Keith Armstrong of the Veterans Affairs Health Care System. 

"They all belong to the families, and friends, and those who knew them, but they also belong to all of us." 

Armstrong shared personal memories of each woman, chuckling at how Gonzales Shushereba had boundless energy and lived by elaborate color-coded to-do lists: 

"But the thing is she had about two million of these lists," joked Armstrong. 

He also noted how Golick loved Giants baseball, especially Hunter Pence because of how he united his teammates: 

"Jiffy did that every day of her professional career," said Armstrong. 

And he confessed he and Loeber shared New England roots, and a can-do spirit.

"When she looked you in the eye and said, 'I got this', you knew you didn't have to worry." 

The women were honored as heroines and American flags were presented to their loved ones, because although they did not wear military uniforms, they served their country. 

"There's no playbook for what we're going through right now," said Mike Gonzales, Shushereba's father, who spoke last.

He asked the audience to support veterans because compassion is what the three women would have wanted. 

"They were willing to spend their lives toiling in obscurity doing a thankless job that was never going to end," said Gonzales, "and who does that ? Only the best of us do."
 

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