FREMONT -- Just before Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Silva left for a tour in Afghanistan, he stopped at his family's church.
He wanted a blessing.
"We prayed for the strength and the courage to face what comes," said Father Geoffrey Baraan, the pastor at Saint Anne Catholic Church. "He understood that you need faith to be in a place that's so dangerous."
After serving more than six months in the Helmand Province, Silva did make it home safe in February. He made plans to return to college and hoped to use his deployment savings toward buying a house he could share with his wife, Julie, and their 2-year-old son, Noah.
Then, in one horrific split-second last week, all that changed.
Silva, 23, a Union City native, was riding his motorcycle in Fremont when witnesses say the driver of a Mini Cooper speeding at an estimated 90 mph ran through a red light and crashed into the Marine reservist. Silva died instantly. The suspected drunken driver admitted to police he had consumed at least five whiskey drinks and had ignored pleas to stay off the road.
Friday, Silva will be buried as a tight-knit family, fellow Marines and the wider community continue to grapple with his senseless death not far from where he lived.
"He survived all the bullets and bombs and explosions, and then he comes home and this happens," Baraan said. "It's very tragic."
How many people he touched became apparent in the days after his death as mourners gathered at a makeshift memorial in a Fremont Bank parking lot at the intersection where the crash happened. Marine comrades organized a run to the vigil site in his honor. And those who knew Silva best have struggled to understand how this could happen.
"Andrew was an absolute stud," said Andrew Masis, 21, of San Francisco, who served with him in Afghanistan. "He was at the front of the pack in everything he did, and he was very wise. I hope the whole world gets to know about Andrew now.."
The oldest of four boys in a family of Filipino descent, Silva played football, wrestled and was in a choir at James Logan High School where he graduated in 2009. He enjoyed pulling pranks, loved the "Star Wars" movies and despite his stocky stature, said brother-in-law Linh Nguyen, somehow came across as a gentle giant. Maybe, Nguyen added, that was because of his big heart.
But the role that made Silva most proud, according to family members, was being a husband, father and big brother.
"He always wanted one of his brothers around him," said Matthew Silva, 22, who also is a Marine reservist. "He wouldn't do something unless one of us could be with him. We were more than brothers. We were best friends."
Elsie Silva said her eldest son first broached the subject of enlisting in the Marines while in high school.
"I told him, 'Call me selfish, but you're not joining,'" she recalled. "But a year later, he came to me and said, 'I'm joining up. I'm not asking your permission because I'm already 18.' That's how determined he was."
Silva was in a San Jose-based combat logistics battalion reserve unit and attending Foothill College when he volunteered for overseas duty. He was deployed to Afghanistan, serving in the southern part of the country as a landing support specialist that included working with helicopters.
"Julie and I worried every minute until he got home," Elsie Silva said.
When he returned to the Bay Area, Silva wasn't yet ready to share too much about his experiences in Afghanistan.
"We were going to have private time," Matthew Silva said. "I think he wanted to talk about it when all the brothers got together. But we never had the chance."
The day he died, on March 25, Silva was riding his 2014 Harley-Davidson from his parents' house to his in-laws' home, where his wife and son were staying. It was about 1:15 a.m., at the intersection of Fremont Boulevard and Decoto Road, when he was fatally struck by the Mini Cooper driven by Alexander Yohn, police said.
The impact propelled the motorcycle and Silva into the Fremont Bank parking.
The family, already worried when he never arrived at his in-laws, became frantic upon learning there had been an accident. Elsie Silva is still upset that the police kept them away from the scene, provided little information -- other than eventually revealing the motorcycle was registered to her son -- and didn't remove his body until the following afternoon.
"My son was left out there for 15 hours, and he didn't deserve that," she said. "He served his country to protect all of us. Why did their investigation take so long? It's a nightmare that continues to haunt me."
Geneva Bosques, the Fremont police spokesperson, said the department sympathizes and can only imagine how traumatic the ordeal has been for the family.
But she said it was a complex crime scene and when police learned Yohn had a previous drunken driving misdemeanor conviction in Minnesota, "We knew we were investigating a murder. And if we make any kind of mistake, it could affect the court case."
Yohn, 23, of Emeryville, is being held without bail. He is charged with murder, vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and felony hit-and-run.
According to an affidavit from Fremont police officer Alan Zambonin, Yohn admitted to being a recovering heroin addict and alcoholic, said he had drank heavily that night, declined an offer for a ride and had no recollection of the accident.
While friends and family want justice in Silva's death, they also are focusing on how he lived. Joseph Cruz said he was heading down the wrong path when he noticed on Facebook that Silva, a high school friend, had enlisted.
"I saw how proud he was to be a Marine, and while he's not the only reason why I joined, he really inspired me," said Cruz, who also is a reservist. "The Marines changed my life, and he's a big part of that."
But a grieving mother only has questions.
"Why did he have to die this way?" she asked. "My son is a very good boy. He is gone too soon."
The funeral will be held at Saint Anne Catholic Church at 32223 Cabello St. in Union City at noon on Friday. A fund has been created for Silva's family. Contributions can be made to the Andrew Silva Memorial account at Fremont Bank branch. Checks can be sent to Fremont Bank, P.O. Box 8170, Fremont, CA, 94537-8170.