It was standing room only at East Bay Fellowship Church in Danville as over 1,200 family, friends, teachers, veterans and strangers gathered at the memorial service for Lance Cpl. Joshua "Chachi" Corral, the San Ramon Valley High grad who died during his first tour of duty in Afghanistan on Nov. 18. The heartfelt and often tearful service on Wednesday afternoon focused on the 19-year-old's zest for life and devotion to God.
"We saw an energetic, charismatic, athletic boy, bringing joy into our lives," Pastor Don Busboom said. "The greatest strength, courage and leadership he had came from Christ. He knew God was in control so he could lay down his life for others."
After graduation from Camp Pendelton's boot camp as the leader of his platoon with perfect physical fitness and weapons scores, Corral became a sweeper in the third battalion, seventh Marine regiment in the weapons unit. As a sweeper, Chachi would walk ahead of his platoon to check for improvised explosive devices; a leadership role many said he was born to fulfill.
Though Corral died in Afghanistan's Helmund province but a month and 12 days after deployment, a fellow Marine said he took comfort knowing his friend and brother died doing what he loved.
"Although you were shorter than me, you had a way of making me look up to you," Kyle Pairish said, adding that he knew Corral would become a Marine from the moment the two met. "You were forged in a different fire."
During the two-hour memorial several speakers, including Corral's grandfather, U.S. Army Col. John Corral, and Pastor Allan Shrewsbury spoke of Chachi's "up-to-something smile," popularity and an unusually discharged bottle rocket incident. Others chose to focus on the Marine's life as a Christian.
"He was military minded but heavenly focused," said Charles Dunlop, Corral's cousin.
Aside from his actions and involvement with the church, one only need look at Chachi's tattoos -- a cross on his stomach, an image of Jesus on his left ribcage and Psalm 18, verses 1-3 on his right -- to see his devotion. Marine Brock Marcotte, who spoke about Chachi being an inspirational Marine, was tattooed with the same Jesus image to honor Corral.
Corral's father, Arnie, also spoke of his family's faith and devotion and asked the crowd to wish them "God speed" when at a loss for other kind words.
"My family has been humbled by the love and support that has come from our family members, friends and community…. When you say 'God speed,' you know who we are, who is guiding us and agree with us when you know where Chachi is."
Arnie described his final phone call with his son, who requested that the Corral family pray for the men in his unit, because he felt prayers working.
"He is with his father in heaven and although his father in this place will not be able to see, touch or throw my arms around him, I take comfort that is in the arms of the Almighty Father," Arnie said. "God speed to you Joshy, you have made a difference and I know it's only the beginning."
The service concluded with a presentation of the flag and gold star banner to the Corral family, a recessional bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace" and a 21-gun salute. Corral was buried at Lafayette's Oakmont Cemetery and a reception in his honor was held at San Ramon Valley High School.