Somber farewell for East Aurora grad killed in Afghanistan
BROWNSVILLE, Texas -- At least 300 people attended the funeral service Saturday for U.S. Army Spc. Miguel Angel Villalon, an East Aurora High School graduate, in the Brownsville Events Center, where a religious ceremony was held to give the soldier a final blessing.
Community members and elected officials including U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez and City Commissioner Jessica Tetreau attended the funeral to give their final goodbye and express their support to the family.
Tetreau said the community intends "to honor him in every way possible and it doesn't stop here. Every Memorial Day, every chance that we get to celebrate his contribution and his ultimate sacrifice to our freedom we will celebrate him and his legacy."
After the funeral Mass, people made their way to the Buena Vista Burial Park, where his loved ones celebrated his life with mariachi and songs such as "Amor Eterno" and "A Mi Manera."
"It's going to be hard because not every day we lose one of our own," said Joaquin Garcia, a Vietnam veteran who witnessed the arrival of Villalon's remains at the airport and also attended the funeral.
Villalon's loved ones were seen wearing black T-shirts that said, "I did my duty, I paid the supreme price. I pray you'll remember, my sacrifice. My life was short, I did my best. God grant me peace, in my eternal rest."
During the religious ceremony, Villalon's family placed red roses on top of the casket while hundreds waited in line to give their condolences to the family.
"If we lose one, we lose one too many," Garcia said.
His mother, Olivia Guzman Villalon, will return to his alma mater, East Aurora High School, Wednesday, Jan. 29, for a 2 p.m. service in the school auditorium that will give the Aurora community a chance to pay its respects.
Villalon, 21, a Brownsville native, was killed in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, on Jan. 11 while conducting operations in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, part of NATO's Resolute Support Mission.
He joined the Army in 2018 to be a combat engineer and reported to the 307th as his first assignment. His awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Army Achievement Medal with "V" device (awarded to service members who perform "meritoriously under the most arduous combat conditions") and the Combat Action Badge.
"As a community we mourn," Tetreau said.