SOUTH OGDEN -- Raphael Arruda would have been 22 years old on Saturday. His family and friends remember him as a man who was quick with a joke, the kind of man who could walk into a room and turn any situation into a good time.
It was a quality that served him well as a U.S. Army corporal in the Bar Kunar District of Afghanistan, where he kept his fellow soldiers laughing.
But the 90 or so loved ones who gathered Saturday in Madison Avenue Park came to remember their hero and celebrate his life. Arruda died after an improved explosive device blew up near his truck July 16.
Amid the chorus of upbeat music and happy chatter, one might think he had just walked into the party.
"He would want us to enjoy life," his father Sergio Arruda said in a toast to the memory of his son.
Another party was being held simultaneously in his hometown of Joao Pessoa in Brazil.
His father said, "He would have been the first (at this party) to say, 'OK, OK, let's go!' "
And shortly after that, the crowd launched into two renditions of "Happy Birthday": once in English, then again in Portuguese.
Raphael came to the U.S. from Brazil with his family 10 years ago.
When his grandfather died, he realized that no one was serving the country that had taken them in, according to a letter he wrote to his cousin after he completed basic training.
"When we came to the U.S., we were very grateful to be accepted here," his father said. "He wanted to give back to the freedom and values that made us come here."
Army Cpl. Rome Essex, who, like Arruda, was in the Army Reserve's 744th Engineering Company, of Ogden, said there are 130 men and women in their unit still fighting in Afghanistan who wish they could be at the party.
"He could put a positive spin in the most treacherous situation," Essex said.
He last saw the vibrant, animated Raphael a month ago. They parted on an inside joke about homemade salsa and finger puppets, which Raphael used to entertain himself and the troops.
The day he died, Raphael had switched places with someone in the truck -- had he not, that man would have died, said Brad Williams, whose wife is a cousin of Raphael Arruda.
"I guess it's a routine thing" to switch places, Williams said. "But he saved his life."
He was a good soldier, one Essex said he put a great amount of trust in.
Raphael's younger brother, Andrey Arruda, is also in the Army.
Andrey had exchanged messages with his brother on Facebook right before he left on his last mission.
They talked about everyday life and their plans for the future.
Raphael was going to study architectural engineering at a university.
He planned to return to the Ogden area when his tour in Afghanistan ended this fall.
Sergio Arruda believes his son is home, but in a different way.
"Life doesn't finish with death. For us, life is eternal," he said. The family are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He related how there is a Brazilian song about how the deceased in heaven are not worried about the mortals who survive them because they have so much fun upstairs.
Sergio Arruda smiled and said he will see his son again.
The family has not released details about funeral arrangements.