Thousands of people lined Sixth Street in Coronado Friday for a public processional honoring Charlie Keating, the 31-year-old Navy SEAL who was shot and killed by Islamic State militants in Iraq on May 3.
School children, armed forces members, residents and visitors stood somberly along the two-lane street, many holding American flags and with their hands over their hearts as they paid a final tribute to Keating before he was to be buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego in the afternoon.
Police, Patriot Guard riders and other escort motorcyclists led the motorcade, which started just before 1 p.m. PT. The crowd was silent as the procession passed, with some crying as they looked on, and it disbursed quietly immediately after.
Sean Foley of Coronado watched the processional wearing a gray memorial shirt with "Chuck Heavy" and Keating's photo on the back, a tribute to his fallen friend and his favorite beer, Budweiser. He met Keating when they were both in high school and Keating would visit Coronado every summer.
Navy promotes fallen SEAL Keating before memorial
"Within five minutes of meeting Charlie, I felt like we were best friends," Foley said. "He was one of those guys who just make you feel like he would just draw you in. He was good at doing that. He was just really friendly, had that signature huge grin."
They spent time together surfing.
"Last time I saw him was at the beach by the shores," Foley said. "He just loves the water."
Andrew Coyle of San Diego said he never met Keating but has a friend serving on Keating's team in Iraq. He wore the same memorial shirt to the procession.
"It's definitely brought people together," Coyle said of the San Diego-area gatherings for Keating. "It's been a huge outpouring of patriotism, which is always great to see. … It's a testament to how tight the community actually is. It's powerful. Especially for us — we can be very disconnected from what's going on over there being here in the United States. I just came out to do my part."
Before the motorcade, about 200 family and close friends attended Keating's funeral at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Though closed to the public, the church broadcast the funeral Mass live on its website so that Keating's friends and relatives outside of California could watch.