RANCHO CUCAMONGA -- Friends and family of the late Marine Sgt. Joshua Ashley gathered under his city banner for a candlelight vigil Friday night on the one-year anniversary of his death in Afghanistan.

The vigil was to followed by a Saturday ceremony at the Freedom Courtyard in Central Park, where Ashley's family will receive the bronze star of valor from the Marine Corps, said his mother, Tammy Ashley.

The medal is awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit, or meritorious service while in combat.

"We're so thankful for everybody being here," Tammy Ashley said at the vigil, where several dozen gathered. "We're so thankful for the support of the community. We're having a hard time with the loss of our son and everyone's been wonderful in the last year. We want to thank everybody and remember the ones who serve our country and have given much for our country."

Among those at the vigil was Joshua's friend, Candice Reyes, and her mother, Shelley Roule. Candice's husband, Robby Reyes, who knew Joshua well when they all attended Etiwanda High School, was killed during a training exercise in Morocco a few months before Ashley's death.

"I just wanted to send my condolences to the Ashley family. Joshua Ashley was a special friend of my daughter Candice and Robby Reyes," Roule said. "Robby was gone, April 11, 2012, and Josh was a very big part of our life, and we will forever love him and support his family."

Rick Creed, father of the late Cpl. Matt Creed, who died in Iraq nearly 10 years ago, also attended the vigil. Creed has started an effort to raise money to help replace worn, faded military banners in town. The banners display the portrait, name and military branch of residents on active duty in the military.

About 400 banners are displayed around town.

"It's important to do this (vigil) because each man and woman, as they've given all for their country, they need to be remembered, so having family and friends here is important," said Creed. "We need to remember all these men in Cucamonga. We have 15 currently, which is way to many. We need to remember every single one of those men every year."

Ashley enlisted in the Marines in 2008 after graduating from Etiwanda High School in 2007.

After boot camp, Ashley was deployed to Okinawa from 2009 to 2011, and was stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., from 2011 to when he was deployed to Afghanistan in May. In Okinawa, Ashley was selected Marine of the Year for his performance.