Family and friends gave their final farewells to Brian Carderelli at a memorial service Sunday afternoon.
The 25-year-old Harrisonburg resident and James Madison University graduate was killed during a medical mission in a remote part of Afghanistan.
He was using his training as a photographer and videographer to document aid work performed by a Christian group, when he and nine other volunteers were gunned down August 5.
More than 1,000 people attended Carderelli's funeral service, and while tears were shed, a smile came to everyone's face who spoke about him and the life he lived.
Carderelli's good friend Michael Albert says they spoke the day before Brian left on a medical mission in rural Afghanistan in mid-July, and he said Carderelli understood the dangers involved with this trip.
"But he thought the opportunity to serve that part of Afghanistan was worth the risk," says Albert.
Carderelli had been in Afghanistan for nearly a year, and those who knew him say this opportunity was really an intersection of his passions.
"Being in a place where he could explore, where he got to have his adventure and use his gifts as a videographer and work with people," says Albert.
"To be able to go, to love the people over there, and then to document that really so the world could see the beautiful way these people live and the beauty of these people that we don't always get to see," says Pastor Tim Frost.
Frost says, over the past few weeks, many people have come forward to share what Carderelli meant to them.
"And I find story after story of how Brian loved and cared for the students, and this church, and this community, a lot of it just sort of under the radar," says Frost.
Pastor Joe Slater says Carderelli loved life and loved people.
"I would love for my sons to grow into the kind of character and kind of young man that Brian was. And I'd love for my daughters to have sons-in-law like Brian. He was just a fine young man," says Slater.
Slater says Carderelli loved God more than life itself, a love for which he eventually died.
"We need to follow his example in loving people and serving people. That Brian really serve as an example and a model for us in that," says Slater.
Carderelli's mother, Sharon, read a statement at Sunday's memorial, forgiving her son's killers.
She said, "The dove is often used as a symbol for peace or for the Holy Spirit of God. As a family we want to publicly say today, that because God, through Christ, has forgiven us, we forgive the men who killed Brian; and we will continue to pray that God will bring peace to Afghanistan."
Slater says, in a situation where most people would feel angry, he knows that the Carderellis do really mean this, and that if they saw those men today, they would tell them they are forgiven.
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