A few days before her soldier son stepped on a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, Marsha Begay Moon got a phone call she says was typical of him.

"I love you and I'm praying for you," she remembers telling Army Spc. Chris Moon, 20.

"Don't forget to pray for my men," she recalls him saying.

Chris Moon, a high school baseball star turned paratrooper, spent most of his short life looking out for others, be they friends, family members, teammates or fellow soldiers, mourners at his funeral heard.

"He was one of the most unselfish people I've ever known," said Rick Perreault, a former childhood coach.

Tucsonans turned out in droves Saturday to pay respects to the hometown hero, who walked away from a sports scholarship at the University of Arizona in 2008 to enlist in the Army.

Moon died July 13 at a military hospital in Germany, not long after both his legs were amputated.

More than 1,000 people packed an east-side church for one of the largest military funeral turnouts the city has seen since current wars began.

"We come not just to mourn but to celebrate a very special life," Randy Hammonds, Moon's pastor since childhood, told the gathering.

Moon "was a star in every category," as a soldier, a sports figure and an individual, Hammonds said.

Oscar Romero, Moon's coach when the soldier was a baseball star at Tucson High Magnet School, confessed to a week of weeping when he learned of his former protégé's passing.

Moon "was one of the greatest players of the decade," and was destined for a pro career if he hadn't quit the game to don a different kind of uniform, Romero said.

"He let baseball go because there was a bigger cause," Romero said.

"He felt that his country needed him."

Moon's joyful attitude was as impressive as his devotion to duty, the coach said.

"He had a smile that was bigger than life."

Moon was overseas with the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, N.C.

A three-star general from Fort Bragg made the trip to Tucson for his funeral.

"Chris always gave every mission his utmost," said Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.

Fellow soldiers often remarked that Moon made them feel happy even in the midst of war, the general said.

"He had an uncanny ability to raise the spirits of everyone around him."

After the church service, Helmick presided over graveside honors at East Lawn Palms cemetery, presenting the soldier's parents with a folded flag that had draped Moon's silver casket.

Hugging the flag, Moon's mother laid her head on husband Brian's shoulder and sobbed.

As their son's body was lowered into the ground, the couple placed a Navajo blanket on his grave as a Navajo woman sang songs in Diné, the tribal language.

Chris Moon is the 12th member of the Navajo Nation to die in current wars.

He also is the 46th service member with ties to Tucson and Southern Arizona to be claimed by conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at calaimo@azstarnet.com or at 573-4138.