One hundred fifty American flags and even more Valley residents lined the streets of downtown Danville Monday afternoon to view a funeral procession for Lance Cpl. Joshua "Chachi" Corral who died on Nov. 18 during his first tour of duty in Afghanistan's Helmund province. The Corral family received their son's body at Travis Air Force Base and was escorted by over 100 vehicles down I-680 to Wilson-Kratzer Funeral Home in Danville.
Although Corral's flight was delayed several hours, many patiently stood along Hartz Avenue between San Ramon Valley High School and Hartz Way holding flags or donning U.S. Marine Corps sweatshirts. Danville resident Jon Walker stood on the corner of East Prospect and Hartz avenues with a flag and gold star to show his support.
"In a community as close as we are it's important to support the family," Walker said, adding that his nephew is an officer in the Navy. "I think it's hit everybody."
Monday's procession was one of several events held to honor the memory of 19-year-old Chachi, who was well-known throughout San Ramon Valley High and in the San Ramon Valley.
"He was just the funniest, brightest kid. Every family who has ever played baseball or soccer has known (the Corral family). One of Chachi's friends said it best: 'He lived life large, four inches shorter than everyone,'" said Laura, who knew Corral since he was a toddler and clutched his framed photo.
The funeral procession for the San Ramon Valley High School graduate made its way south on I-680 to the El Cerro exit before continuing south on Danville Boulevard. San Ramon Valley Fire trucks 31 and 35 hung a large flag between extended cherry pickers, marking the downtown entrance for dozens of Warriors' Watch Riders on motorcycles, Danville Police, Highway Patrol and several cars holding flags for each branch of the Armed Forces.
Several minutes before the procession reached Danville Boulevard, SRVHS students gathered on the sidewalk in silence. Although not many students are openly discussing Chachi's death, one student said, the whole school has been affected.
"You can feel that everyone cares. It's really amazing how a lot of people came out and stood here even though it was optional," said sophomore Amanda Miller, who estimated that the entire student body left their sixth period classes to pay their respects.
Sophomore Noelle Eleisides said she expects the caring attitude to continue, especially as Corral's younger brother, Jordy, returns to class.
"There will be a lot of love. People have expressed how much they love him and how much they care for him," she said.
In addition to feelings of anguish, sadness and grief, Chachi's death has confused at least one Danville resident who is considering joining the Marines. Natalie Kern's 17-year-old son is now not sure if he's "more scared or more sure" about signing up.
"This is the closest it's hit to home. My son said it stirred up feelings that he didn't have before…about serving his country," Kern said.
As many reflect on the death of Joshua Corral and the lives of their friends and relatives in the Armed Forces, the Corral family and the community prepare for Chachi's funeral on Wednesday. A memorial service will be held at the East Bay Fellowship Church (2615 Camino Tassajara, Danville)at 12:30 followed by a private burial at the Oakmont Cemetery in Lafayette. A reception will be tentatively held in the SRVHS gym at 4:30, with dinner provided by Ruggie's restaurant.