Aurora soldier's remains arrive in Texas for burial

  • The casket bearing the remains of Army Spc. Miguel Angel Villalon arrives Thursday at Funeraria del Angel Buena Vista Funeral Home in Brownsville, Texas. Villalon, an East Aurora High School graduate, was killed earlier this month in Afghanistan.

    The casket bearing the remains of Army Spc. Miguel Angel Villalon arrives Thursday at Funeraria del Angel Buena Vista Funeral Home in Brownsville, Texas. Villalon, an East Aurora High School graduate, was killed earlier this month in Afghanistan. Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald

  • Miguel Angel Villalon

    Miguel Angel Villalon

  • Angelica Mendez waits outside the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport on Thursday to pay her respects to late Army Spc. Miguel Angel Villalon.

    Angelica Mendez waits outside the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport on Thursday to pay her respects to late Army Spc. Miguel Angel Villalon. Denise Cathey/Brownsville Herald

 
By Nubia Reyna
and Erin Sheridan
The Brownsville Herald
Updated 1/23/2020 8:08 PM

BROWNSVILLE, Texas -- Some praying, some crying and some holding American flags, dozens of community members gathered at the Brownsville-South Padre International Airport to witness the arrival of the remains of Army Spc. Miguel Angel Villalon on Thursday afternoon.

Villalon, 21, an East Aurora High School graduate who spent part of his childhood in Texas, was killed in action Jan. 11 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.

 

"It was sad because my husband served in Vietnam and I was pregnant when he left and you never know what kind of news you're going to get," said Anita Infante, who was at the airport paying her respects. "He's a hero; he volunteered."

After the arrival at the airport, a procession including Villalon's family members and several law enforcement vehicles made their way through the city to drive by Oliveira Middle School and Perez Elementary, where he was a student, and the apartments where he lived in Brownsville.

Hundreds of students waved American flags at the procession and held signs that said "local hero" and "thank your for your service," among many more while they were accompanied by their teachers. Hundreds of kids were also seen outside of El Jardin Elementary near the airport with signs and flags.

"This is a way of thanking the Villalon family because they lent their child so he could serve his country and so all of us could enjoy all the benefits that we have in this country," Vietnam veteran Guadalupe Leal, who has family related to Miguel Angel, said while waiting at the airport.

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Adrian Avilez, a Desert Storm veteran, waited outside under the late afternoon sun just an hour before the plane arrived on the tarmac. It was his first time paying his respects to a fallen soldier at the airport in Brownsville.

"Even though we didn't know him, he's our comrade. It's a sad thing because you work so hard to protect this country. We have to go far away to do this work. He paid the ultimate sacrifice for us here," he said.

Villalon joined the Army in 2018 to be a combat engineer and reported to the 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion as his first assignment. His awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, an Army Achievement Medal with "V" device (awarded to service members who perform "meritoriously under the most arduous combat conditions") and the Combat Action Badge.

Visitation will be held from 1 to 10 p.m. Friday at the Brownsville Event Center. The funeral service will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at the same location and will be followed by the burial in Buena Vista Burial Park.

Villalon's mother, Olivia Guzman Villalon, will return to his alma mater Wednesday, Jan. 29, for a service that will give the Aurora community a chance to pay its respects. Mayor Richard Irvin will invite Gold Star families to attend the public service at 2 p.m. in East Aurora's auditorium.

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