When Christopher Singer joined the U.S. Marine Corps soon after high school, his family and friends were proud, but not surprised.
He announced his interest in a military career at the tender age of 7, his mother, Marlene Shaw, recalled through tears Friday at her son's memorial service in Lake Forest.
Hundreds packed the auditorium at to honor the life of the 23-year-old corporal, who. He was assigned to 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force based in Twentynine Palms.
Other viewers were more far-flung; the service was also broadcast live to Singer's unit in Afghanistan. The Patriot Guard Riders—motorcyclists who attend military funerals to show respect to those who have died and support their families—were out in full force, forming a pathway through which Singer's casket was carried in and out of the auditorium.
Singer grew up in Temecula and Lake Forest and, after joining the Marines, was stationed at Camp Pendleton.
As a boy, becoming a soldier was an "all-consuming passion" of Singer's, said family friend Pastor Steve Sposato.
Sposato spoke of Singer's devotion to his country, and to his family, telling Singer's 2-year old daughter, Briyana: "Your daddy was a great and godly man."
Singer's father, Lake Forest resident Greg Singer, called his son "my hero." As he recalled the moment he learned of his son's death, he apologized for being unable to hold back his tears.
He and Shaw both gave effusive thanks to the members of the Marine Corps who have supported them in their time of mourning.
Singer's parents flanked their son's wife, Brooke Singer, as she said goodbye to her husband.
Between sobs, she shared memories from the four years she had known him, including the way his face lit up when their daughter was born. Briyana's special bond with her father gave her her nickname, Brooke Singer said—"I call her my little Christopher."
Singer's connection to Brooke was unmistakable, noted Pastor Terrence Sims, another speaker at the ceremony.
"I could tell that his life had changed when he met Brooke," he said, sharing memories of the times he and Singer would pray together.
Pastor Bob Baker also spoke at the service, which lasted nearly two hours.
As the service concluded, Singer's parents and wife were presented with a Purple Heart. Following an open-casket viewing, a procession traveled to Riverside National Cemetery for a burial with full military honors.
On Tuesday, Singer's family collected his body in Los Alamitos, where a