Body of fallen Brownsville soldier back in the US

A U.S. Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon, past Vice President Mike Pence, center right and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten, center left, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Villalon, of Joliet, Ill., was killed in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

BROWNSVILLE — Funeral services will be held next week for Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon, a Brownsville native who was killed Saturday in Afghanistan when the vehicle he was riding in was struck by an IED, or improvised explosive device.

Leslie Duval, Villalon, Villalon’s aunt and godmother, said services are scheduled for next Friday and Saturday.

Villalon’s remains arrived Tuesday night at Dover Air Force Base, Del., where Vice President Mike Pence and other dignitaries received them. They will be transported back to Brownsville where Villalon will be buried.

It is not immediately known when the transportation of Villalon’s remains will occur. A spokesperson for the base’s Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations said as of Wednesday she did not have any information on the departure.

Villalon is survived by his father, who lives in Brownsville, and his mother, a resident of Illinois.

Officials said Villalon and Staff Sgt. Ian Paul McLaughlin, of New Port News, Va., were in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan when they were killed.

According to a U.S. Department of Defense press release, the soldiers were conducting operations as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission. The incident is under investigation.
Both soldiers were assigned to 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Villalon 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 “C” device (awarded to service members who perform “meritoriously under the most arduous combat conditions”) and the Combat Action Badge.

Officials said both soldiers were on their first combat deployments.

In an earlier interview, Villalon’s older brother, San Antonio resident Arnold Fernandez, said his brother was the type of person who loved helping others, and was keen on joining the military from an early age.

“My mom found a picture of him when he was 3 and he was actually wearing an Airborne Army shirt,” he said.

Villalon became the “man of the house” after the move to Illinois and was working to take care of his mother, Fernandez said. Duval noted that Villalon was responsible from a very young age.

Fernandez said his brother was proud of being from the Rio Grande Valley and that when he graduated from military school insisted on being identified as a Brownsville native.

“My brother was an overall amazing person and I want everyone to know he left a hero, and he just really wanted to help people and serve his country,” Fernandez said.
Villalon said, “We’re bringing home a hero.”

Funeraria del Angel Buena Vista Funeral Home in Brownsville will be handling the funeral arrangements.