DANVILLE -- Beneath a warming sun and buffeted by a gentle, flag-flapping breeze, retired Army Lt. John Corral told a few hundred onlookers outside the Danville Veteran's Memorial Building on Saturday how he tried to talk his grandson Joshua "Chachi" Corral out of enlisting in the Marines.
"When I asked him why he wanted to," said Corral, who served two tours in Vietnam, "he put me on the spot. He said, 'I want to be like you.'"
A bronze Fallen Hero Memorial outside the recently renovated veteran's center was dedicated Saturday in honor of Marine Lance Cpt. Joshua "Chachi" Corral, who was killed in Afghanistan in November. Given what he once told his grandfather, it was fitting he was remembered as someone worth emulating.
Capt. David Russell, Corral's commanding officer and one of 20 comrades from the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment to attend the ceremony, said the memorial should not be symbolic of Corral's death, but of "a life well lived and an example well set.
"He loved life," Russell added, "and not just his own."
The memorial, funded by the Semper Fi Foundation, depicts a "battlefield cross," used to honor members of the military killed in combat -- a pair of boots next to a rifle impaled in the ground with a helmet perched on the rifle's stock.
Also attending the ceremony were Matthew and Marcia Reiff of Iowa, whose son, Cpl. Zachary Reiff, was killed by the same blast that claimed Corral; a handful of
East Prospect Avenue, flanked by a row of American flags, was closed to auto traffic between Hartz Avenue and Front Street for the event. The stage featured a large American flag hung behind a bunting-draped lectern. In addition to the uniformed Marines, a few uniformed sailors were in attendance as well as veterans of various military campaigns and branches of the service.
There was a booth where water tattoos, dog tags and T-shirts were sold. A few people walked dogs wearing red, white and blue scarves. A banner hanging from a vintage pickup truck parked across the street read, "Freedom is not free."
"We are living in a community where leadership has gone over and above the call of duty to honor our son," Arnie Corral, Chachi's father, told the crowd.
Chachi's brother, Zachary, 23, gave an emotional address that had many in the crowd sniffling and wiping tears from their eyes.
"Chachi lived to love," Zachary Corral said, "and because he lived to love, he made a difference. I'm asking you to honor Chachi by loving on someone today."
"Unbelievable," Denise Corral, Chachi's mother, said of the event, which was followed by a celebration at the Danville Community Center. "It was just as perfect as I thought it would be."
Arnie Corral noted the community support his family has received over the past seven months.
"I've lived here for more than 30 years," he said, "and I decided a long time ago, I'm not going anywhere. Every year with the Fourth of July (parade), the patriotism in this town. When Chachi was killed in action, the amount of support that we received from this community was amazing. It continues today."
Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/garyscribe.