OAKLEY, Calif. (AP) — A Marine from Northern California who was shot and killed at a base in Virginia was remembered by loved ones as a brave woman who was full of dreams.
Lance Cpl. Sara Castromata, 19, of Oakley joined the Marines because she believed it was the toughest military branch and she was a tough girl, her family told reporters on Sunday.
Now, devastated loved ones are making arrangements to bring her body back home to prepare for a funeral.
"I cannot believe it, you don't want to believe it," her older sister, Gabriela Castro, 30, told KGO-TV.
Officials say Castromata was killed Thursday by Sgt. Eusebio Lopez of Pacifica, Calif., at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico in northern Virginia.
Lopez also fatally shot Jacob Wooley of Guntown, Miss., a field radio operator, before killing himself, officials said.
The three people worked at a school that tests Marines who want to become officers, but officials have not released their relationship or a motive for the shooting. Their bodies were found in Taylor Hall barracks, where those who work at the school live. The candidates for officer live elsewhere on base.
On Sunday, Castromata's family struggled to make sense of the shooting as they gathered at her home, lighting candles around her military portrait and a bouquet of yellow roses.
"She knew how to comfort people," Gabriela Castro said. "She was brave ... full of dreams."
Castromata's stunned family told the Bay Area News Group that she was friends with Lopez, 25, but they had not heard of Wooley, who was 23.
Castromata enlisted in the Marines in 2011, the same year she graduated from high school with honors. She joined the military so she could pay her own way through college, even though her father wanted to pay for it, her family said.
After completing boot camp in South Carolina, Castromata was stationed at Quantico. Although she had not been deployed, Castromata — whose last name is combination of her parents' surnames — had been awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and a Good Conduct Medal.