The silence was broken only by the sound of American flags billowing in the wind and the sobs and moans of a family that came to collect the coffin of 23-year-old Cpl. Christopher G. Singer, a Marine, a husband, a father and a son.
More than a hundred family, friends, and community members gathered Tuesday to honor the arrival of Singer, a Temecula native and Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton. Singer died in combat Jan. 21 in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. His coffin was flown in to Los Alamitos, where a Hero Mission was held to honor the sacrifice of the Singer family.
The procession was dignified and simple. Patriot Guard Riders, clad in black leather or denim blue vests with embroidered patches stamping them as veterans, sped in on their motorcycles. Holding the American flag high, these veterans ride in for every Hero Mission that takes place at the Joint Forces Training Base (JFTB) in Los Alamitos. Their purpose is one: to honor the fallen Americans who serve this country.
The Singer family invited the public to attend their son’s ceremony. Attendees gathered together in front of the control tower at JFTB. Present were active military from the California National Guard, U.S. Marine Corps and Army Reserve, police from surrounding cities, retired veterans, and nearby residents.
When the plane carrying Singer’s coffin began its descent, a solemn silence overtook the crowd. Men and women in uniform marched to welcome the charter carrying Corporal Singer’s body. They stood in formation, with their hands behind their backs, the right hand resting atop the left.
When the front door of the charter opened, the silence was broken by sobs of Cpl. Singer’s wife and mother. Marines led the slouching figures of Corporal Singer’s family, wife, mother, and father, to the casket carrying his body. The immediate family was given their time to privately welcome and say good-bye to the fallen Marine, who leaves behind a two-year-old daughter Briyana.
As the fallen Marine was returned to his family, guests bowed their heads in silence and remained so for a long while, breaking only when the corporal’s father, who had managed to remain stoic, let out a devastated moan after seeing his son for the first time since Sept. 2011.
The Marines escorted the family back to the front of the control tower. Cpl. Singer’s coffin was carried from the plane to a white hearse while uniformed personnel saluted. The military then received the command to disperse. Family, friends, and community members followed suit.
Susan Johnson from Rossmoor who has a dozen of her own family members deployed in Afghanistan attended to pay her respect to the Singer family.
“The ceremony was conducted with so much dignity and respect. I felt honored to be invited by the family,” said Johnson.
Robert Quintana, serving in the military for the past 20 years, was present documenting the Hero Mission of Cpl. Christopher Singer for the military.
“It always hurts to see this, but you still have your job to do,” said Quintana, as he stood somberly with a camera hanging from his neck.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department escorted Singer’s coffin down Katella Avenue as community members and school children lined the street to pay their respects.
Singer's father lives in Lake Forest and his memorial service will be held 10 a.m. Friday at Saddleback Church, located at, 1 Saddleback Parkway, Lake Forest. The community is also invited to the memorial service.