Several hundred residents, veterans and students gathered in front of the Veterans Memorial Building Saturday morning to memorialize a local hero.
Chachi was the first SRVHS grad to die in combat during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, a memorial in his honor now sits at the corner of Hartz and Prospect avenues.
The Corral family was joined by town officials, veterans and members of Chachi's regiment for the for the 10 a.m. unveiling. Mayor Candace Andersen, along with Chachi's company commander, family members, friends and veterans, gave heartfelt speeches and sang songs.
"I am proud to be the member of a community who truly honors and respects our veterans and those who serve fighting for our country," Andersen said.
The ceremony concluded with the unveiling of the memorial: a statue of a soldier's combat boots, rifle and helmet configured in the battlefield cross. Chachi's name has been engraved at the base of the memorial; the names of other fallen soldiers will join his in the future.
"This memorial is not a dedication to war, nor is it a proclamation against it. It is not a memorial of death; it is a memorial of life. Of Chachi's life and of the lives of all others who have set the example before him," said Company Commander Capt. David Russell.
Members of the Marine Corps also hung the dog tags of fallen soldiers upon the statue. Col. Corral, Chachi's grandfather, presented the last dog tag: a blank tag which represents all of the fallen soldiers who had already given their lives.
A mariachi parade led attendees to the town green for a celebration of life. Local food and beverage vendors were joined by live music, kids' activities and presentations.
"It is the celebration of life, the way life is supposed to be lived. It is an example for all of us, of who we should strive to be become everyday. How we should live our lives, that's who Chachi is to us," Capt. Russel said. "Men who knew their value, men who did what they knew was right. Men who I honestly believe, if given the choice and knowing what the price to be paid was going to be -- would have still paid it regardless; would have still walked the course laid out before them because they knew it was the path they were meant to be on. That is what I feel, what I see when I gaze upon this memorial and from now on when I visit other memorials. Because a little bit of Chachi will be a light in all of them."
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