Flags will fly at half-staff in Fayetteville, North Carolina, from Tuesday through Sunday in honor of two soldiers who were killed over the weekend in Afghanistan.
Army 82nd Airborne Division Paratroopers Staff Sgt. Ian Paul McLaughlin of Newport News, Virginia, and Pfc. Miguel Angel Villalon of Joliet, Illinois, were killed on Saturday in southern Afghanistan by a roadside bomb.
McLaughlin was 29, and Villalon was 21. They were both combat engineers. It was their first combat deployment.
Army Col. Art Sellers, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division said:
When our Nation called for its best Airborne Combat Engineers to deploy into harm’s way, Staff Sgt. McLaughlin and Pfc. Villalon answered without hesitation. They lived their motto, ‘Essayons,’ and embodied the values of the All American Engineer.
Their loved ones are now surrounded by a caring community offering comfort and assistance through this difficult time.
Army 82nd Airborne Division Commander Maj. Gen. James Mingus added,
These paratroopers represent the very best of our Nation and our Army. Three time volunteers, they went when our Nation called and paid the ultimate sacrifice. They will be honored, mourned, but never forgotten and we are committed to taking care of their families for life.
McLaughlin joined the Army in 2012. He is survived by his wife and four children.
Villalon joined the Army in 2018. He is survived by his mother of Chicago, Illinois, and father of Brownsville, Texas. He was just two years old when the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks occurred, prompting the Afghanistan War.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper ordered the flags to fly at half-staff at the Fayetteville City Hall and Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks and Recreation Facilities through sunset on Sunday, according to the Fayetteville Observer.
“This is a stark reminder of the dangers our service members still face on the front lines of freedom,” Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin said in a statement, according to the newspaper.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of Sgt. Ian Paul McLaughlin and Pfc. Miguel Angel Villalon. We will join the governor’s order and lower flags at city buildings to show our support.”
McLaughlin’s mother Glenna Carroll told 13 News Now that her son’s death is a “great loss.”
“His whole world was his children and his wife…And he is just the perfect example of a wonderful father, a wonderful son, and man. And he served his country bravely,” she told the station.
She said she will make sure McLaughlin’s children always remember how much their father loved them:
It’s just a devastating loss. It’s devastating and I will do everything I can to share his memory and I know their mother will as well because I know he’s the light of her life as well. It saddens me, but I’ll do everything that I can to make sure that they know all about him and how much he loved them.
McLaughlin’s cousin tweeted: “You made our family so proud. I love you. Rest In Peace.”
You made our family so proud. I love you. Rest In Peace ❤️ https://t.co/s8vZT2Y5Ot
— Sierra (@sierra_garcia19) January 13, 2020
Villalon’s aunt and godmother Leslie Duval told the Valley Morning Star that services for him will be held in Brownsville, Illinois. “We’re bringing home a hero,” she said.
Villalon’s older brother, Arnold Fernandez, told the Morning Star 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 three and he was actually wearing an Airborne Army shirt,” he said. “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.”