Be A Light

The poignant words; “be a light, be a light, be a light,” handwritten on the first page of Joshua Corral’s bible tells volumes about the 19 year-old U.S Marine, known to everyone as Chachi, who lived steadfastly by his humble mantra, as reported by his commanding officer, Captain David Russell, at the young soldier’s recent memorial in Danville.

It was while Chachi Corral was being a light to his fellow Marines that he volunteered to be the “sweeper”—the one who walks ahead of his unit, the one who sweeps the area for landmines and IEDs with a metal detector to protect his comrades following behind. Chachi had volunteered for the most dangerous of all jobs while walking across the arid terrain; to be the “point of the spear.”

His brother, Zack Corral, 22, told me how it all went down; how Chachi volunteered to lead the way, following his own personal quest by being the light; a beacon forging a safe and clear path for his soldiering friends when the buried bomb exploded on November 18, 2011. The 3rd Battalion, 7TH Marines from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Centre were in the deadly region of Sangin, northwest of Kandahar, Afghanistan, when the killer IED went off.

By coincidence, one of his closest friends in the Marines was Zachary Rieff, also known as Zach, his brother’s name. Zach was supposed to fall back but he followed close to Chachi; he had Chachi’s back, and had said that if he were to die he would want to die with his buddy. The two friends were ahead of their unit, forging a safe path, when the IED went off. Chachi died of mortal wounds; Zach died shortly after.

Zack Corral shared at the memorial that his brother felt God gnawing at his heart, and when he joined the Marines he already knew that he would be deployed to Afghanistan. Lance Corporal Joshua Chachi Corral could not know that so soon after his unit’s arrival, a fatal hidden bomb would go off beneath his feet.

After graduating San Ramon Valley High School in the class of 2010, Joshua Chachi Corral volunteered for the Marine Corps and did basic training in San Diego with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Regiment. Several members of the same graduating class joined the Marine Corps; two were present at his recent memorial dedication—and some who served in Chachi’s battalion in Afghanistan, and who witnessed the explosion, were in the honor guard at the sculptural memorial’s unveiling.

The Town of Danville had recently celebrated the Grand Opening of the $8 million renovated historic Veterans Memorial Building of San Ramon Valley on Hartz at Prospect. Rear Admiral Mary P. O’Donnell, USCG Retired, in her inaugural remarks, drove home the heartfelt points that our nation’s warriors do not fear death, do not fear going MIA, do not fear being wounded; but the casualty of being forgotten is what they fear the most.

So, in the spirit of revering the memory of our military men and women for their selfless service, the trustees worked with the Semper Fi Foundation funding partners who sealed their commitment with a bronze iconic sculpture known as the “Battlefield Cross.” The sculpture dedicated to honor Lance Corporal Joshua Chachi Corral and all Fallen Heroes, now stands permanently outside the Veterans Building depicting the helmet on rifle and boots forming an ad hoc cross that warriors traditionally set on battlefields to honor their fallen comrades.

The Danville Fallen Hero Memorial was unveiled on a new summer’s day, 23rd June, when many veterans groups and hundreds of citizens honored the memory of those who gave their lives in service to their country, and Chachi Corral, our town’s own fallen hero; still in his teens when he gave his young life for our freedom—all gave some—some gave all.

Soon after Chachi was killed in action, his parents Denise and Arnie Corral, knew the importance of recognizing those who had sacrificed their lives in service to their country, and to honor their son’s wishes and memory were instrumental in supporting the needs of his fellow Marines. One month after his death in 2011, the Semper Fi Foundation was formed by a citizen’s group, spearheaded by Len Hack, with a defined mission to rally support for all United States Marines, fallen heroes and their families. The camaraderie between the Marine Corps and the Semper Fi Foundation was poignantly evidenced at the recent memorial celebration.

Captain David Russell, USMC 3/7, Chachi’s Commanding Officer, spoke at the memorial, about how today’s military is the most educated and highly trained, and go to battle with the most advanced weaponry in military history. He made the point that even with the most rigorous training and the best defense capabilities, there is no protection against the enemy’s seemingly innocuous improvised explosive devices buried in the sand, or on the roads, that have killed or maimed so many of our military.

Those who attended the Celebration of Life Memorial for Danville’s young fallen hero were imbued with a renewed sense of pride and respect for those who have fallen, and those patriotic citizens who honor their memories— especially the Corral family. The Town of Danville, known for its unique style of patriotism and commitment to honor our military, went beyond the anticipated by sponsoring a glorious day on the Community Centre green.

At the finale of the bitter-sweet memorial service, a mariachi band played and the celebrants followed the music to have lunch at an array of food kiosks in the park. At the conclusion of L.Cpl. Joshua Chachi Corral’s celebration of life there were embraces, smiles and tears, but above all, a sense of remembrance for those who gave their all for their beloved United States of America.

The sentiment was best said by Spike “Go Navy Baby” Schau, coordinator of the patriotic motorbike Warriors’ Watch Riders, who has racked up over 700 military escorts on his Harley Electra Classic. “That’s what we do.” Spike smiled with resolve; his vest heavy with medals, buttons and pins. The local Warrior Watch Riders is a group of about 30 bikers who welcome home unsuspecting soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. “We never forget our fallen warriors; about 60 bikers joined our military escort to Travis AFB last November to welcome Chachi home and with American flags waving, we rode along in the funeral parade to his family in Danville on his last ride home.”
Semper Fi, Chachi. Be a light, be a light, be a light…

Why Does Everything Cost So Much?

The cost of living goes up every year. I get it. What I question is when did the cost of living start spiraling out of control? Or better yet, when is going to stop? When the average person tries to define the “cost of living” they instinctively think of the cost of items we need to live off during the normal course of a day in the week, in the middle of a month, of a year I don’t recall (that italic part is a line from a song by my new favorite band, the Gym Class Heroes). In addition to the staples which we require to survive, which would include; food, water, shelter, transportation, entertainment and Starbucks, there’s the necessities of life which we can’t seem to live without, including but not limited to; toilet paper, house hold appliances, cars, computers, cable television, Starbucks again, iPhone/Pad/Pod/Touch and everything Bieber. It’s not what we need that I have trouble with but how much it costs that keeps me up at night.

At the risk of sounding like my dad, back when I was a kid…., but back when I was an elementary school kid in the late 1970s, we could watch a double feature at the downtown one screen movie theater for $1.50. I recently took my family to the 24 screen mega-plex in Dublin and I was floored the cost of an adult ticket to see the new Spiderman movie was $12.50. That’s twelve American dollars and two quarters. Now I love me my superhero movies, but I almost needed the superhero power of credit card manufacturing in order to pay for my family evening out bill once I budget in dinner, an $8.00 bucket of popcorn and gas.

Speaking of gas, regular unleaded seems to fluctuate somewhere between $3.75 and $4.25 per gallon depending on whether the price for crude oil is above or below $100 per barrel. When I got my license in 1978, I paid $.64 per gallon. Additionally, a friendly attendant checked my oil level and washed my windshield while my gas was pumping. An attendant, not a homeless person, was someone employed by the service station to provide friendly full service attention to the customers. Most of the guys working there were paying their way through college.

Speaking of college, it now costs approximately $100,000 to graduate from a notable university, more in some cases. In the early 1980s, my parents paid somewhere right around $30.00 per unit each semester at California State University Northridge (or Cal State Nowhere as we called it). For my friends who chose to attend the local community college, their fees were even lower. Using rough math, I believe my education cost right around $3,600. That kind of saving left a lot of money for beer.

Speaking of beer, my fraternity brothers and I often resorted to purchasing Meister Brau beer from Walgreens for $1.99 a six pack. Their advertising catch phrase was, Just like BUD only cheaper. In reality, it wasn’t just like BUD. It was a watered down version of Olympia. At the start of this major league baseball season, I paid $9.50 for a sixteen ounce cup of beer at a major league ballpark located on the west side of the Bay Bridge. At $9.00 a pop that’s $95.00 for ten beers. Not that I typically have ten beers at a major league ball game, nine at most, but for $95.00 I could purchase 47.738 six-packs of Meister Brau to share with my friends.

Speaking of friends, one of the joyful activities my friends and I loved to do was to attend concerts. Bill Graham was the master of concert promotion and his Day on the Green series was the best value in town. In 1979, we paid $12.00 (plus a $2.00 Bass Tickets fee) to see Aerosmith, Foreigner, Pat Travers, Van Halen and a new band called AC/DC play at the Oakland Coliseum.  Seeing such a strong assemblage of classic rock bands for under $15.00 was a positive and uplifting experience despite the heavy scent of an herb I was unfamiliar with being smoked by the masses in attendance. During Coldplay’s recent sold out show at San Jose’s HP Pavilion, tickets were $125.00 even in the upper deck of HP Pavilion. I’m not even sure there was an opening act. Who in their right mind would pay $125.00, plus $30.00 for parking, to listen to a band playing slow melodic depressing songs for two hours? Tickets should come with the above referenced herb and a magazine.

Speaking of magazines, in 1978 a Playboy magazine, with Farrah Fawcett on the cover, cost $2.50. Don’t ask me how I got it, but believe me when I say I still have it. This week while checking out at the grocery store, I saw a People Magazine – When They Were Young special edition listed for $11.99. Who are they kidding, that’s $12.00! My 24 year-old Playboy is still a better value (those articles are timeless). Who wants to read about celebrities when they were snot-nosed, obnoxious kids? I have those at my house.

Speaking of kids, the cost of babysitting has become outrageous. I can recall my parents having a conniption fit when the cost of babysitting rose to $1.00 per hour right around 1970. My teenage daughter’s charge between $10.00 and $12.00 per hour to watch children for a few hours while I-680 suburban mommies and daddies take time out for a date night. That adds considerable expense to nice dinner or movie excursion (see movie ticket prices above). I bet I shelled out over $12,500 to babysitters until my kids could watch themselves. However, the money my girls make does allow them to contribute toward the uber expensive designer jeans they choose to wear.

Speaking of jeans, has anyone priced jeans lately? It’s crazy how expensive denim apparel has become. I’m undoubtedly dating myself when I say we paid an astronomical $30.00 for a pair of Jordache, Calvin Klein or Z Cavaricci jeans during the designer jean craze of 1980-84. Granted, our jeans looked so totally cool with an IZOD or Polo shirt and Speery topsiders that is was worth every penny. Today, girls pay upwards of $150 for brands such as True Religion or Miss Me jeans. You need to rack up a lot of babysitting hours to afford to dress “hot.”

At the risk of overstating the obvious, I wish things weren’t so expensive. It seems that a lot of what we use every day that is reasonably priced is not made to last. It’s replaceable instead of repairable. I can remember staring at the walls of our house for hours on end whenever our one and only 19” TV was removed for periodic maintenance. The torture could last up to a week until the “idiot box”, as my dad called it, was ultimately returned. Today, if any of our six flat screens displays so much as a horizontal hold blip, we take it to the e recycle center and scan the internet for a sale. I don’t even think they make a horizontal hold knob anymore.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, documented in his 1954 book Motivation and Personality, is a slightly different definition of needs. While money certainly does play into Maslow’s rungs which include; self-actualization, self esteem, love/belonging, safety and the physiological element, the last I checked all that touchy feely stuff isn’t adjusted annually by the Consumer Price Index. Work hard, save and spend wisely is what a former teacher of mine once said. Sound advice from a guy whose chosen profession is grossly underpaid. If only everything wasn’t so expensive.

Belly Laughs—A Great Stress-Busting Tool!

Can you believe how fast the days, weeks, and years are flying by? I am brutally aware of being a “baby boomer” when I see my friends’ and neighbors’ “little kids” morphing into young adults in what feels like a blink of an eye. Another “boomer” reminder is how young most of my healthcare professionals appear. Sometimes, I catch myself glancing at the framed credentials on their office walls to make sure they really are doctors! Oi vey…

For this reason, maintaining a healthy sense of humor is a must for aging gracefully and gratefully. And, the good news is: humor invites us to look for the lightness in situations and as a result, experience lots of belly laughs. Now remember, belly laughs are the opposite of tense, upper chest breathing—so humor can be a great stress-busting tool.

In my private practice, doctors often refer me their patients who are struggling with high stress levels. When I offer stress management tools, I encourage clients to find healthy ways to “lighten up.” For example, one of my clients, Elizabeth, felt stuck in a job that she’d had for twenty years. Elizabeth’s doctor referred her to me when her excess weight was beginning to erode her health. When I met Elizabeth during our initial intake session, I noticed a look of sadness in her eyes. I sensed a quiet desperation that became more apparent as she began describing her life to me. In a monotone voice, she shared that her social life was scarce, her work was tedious, and she felt bored with her life.

Elizabeth originally came from a family of accountants/CPAs who often saw things in terms of black and white. Playfulness and humor were not frequent visitors in the serious household where Elizabeth grew up. Now, in adulthood (as a skilled accountant herself), Elizabeth was great at utilizing her logical, linear skills. However, she was unable to access her creativity or her sense of humor until she began breaking out of her one-dimensional identity. A fascinating piece of Elizabeth’s personal growth puzzle became clear during one of our early hypnotherapy sessions.

The focus of this particular session offered Elizabeth an opportunity to access a colorful part of herself—a part that didn’t feel trapped in her “boring” life. After she became deeply relaxed in a beautiful tropical beach setting, I invited Elizabeth to imagine that a colorful, creative energy was joining her. Elizabeth reported, with an amused smile, that a Gypsy woman appeared. The woman she described was wearing brightly colored clothing and had a wide smile that beamed enthusiasm and joy.

Elizabeth began conversing with the Gypsy woman. After a few minutes had passed, I asked if the Gypsy might have a supportive message for Elizabeth. After a moment of silence, Elizabeth told me that the Gypsy handed her a silver pendant with the word “DANCE” etched on the front. When the hypnotherapy was complete, Elizabeth shared that when she was a kid, she dressed up as a Gypsy numerous times on different Halloween nights. As she spoke, I saw in her eyes a flicker of hope begin to ignite.

For the next three sessions, Elizabeth deepened her connection with the colorful Gypsy woman who represented creativity, playfulness, and passion. As a result, Elizabeth began adding healthy portions of fun into her life. She frequented a Zumba® exercise class and signed up for Salsa lessons at a local dance club. Elizabeth’s focus shifted from self-soothing by overeating—to adding colorful and vitality-building activities into her life.

Due to her courageous personal growth work, Elizabeth “lightened up” on two levels: mind and body. Finally, I’m happy to report that belly laughs are currently one of Elizabeth’s favorite abdominal workouts!

Trina Swerdlow, BFA, CCHT, is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, an artist, and the author and illustrator of Stress Reduction Journal: Meditate and Journal Your Way to Better Health. She currently has a private practice in downtown Danville. Trina soulfully shares her creative approach to personal growth and passionately supports her clients in reaching their goals. You can reach her at: (925) 285.5759, or

Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy services in California can be alternative or complementary to licensed healing arts, such as psychotherapy.