AURORA, Ill. (WLS) -- Flags in west suburban Aurora will remain at half staff to honor a local soldier killed in combat.
Twenty-one-year-old Private First Class Miguel Villalon was one of two soldiers killed Saturday when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan.
They were conducting operations as part of NATO's Resolute Support Mission.
Villalon joined the Army in 2018. This was his first combat deployment.
A graduate of East Aurora High School, friends say he always made them a priority.
"He always made time for everybody, no matter where he was in the world," friend and classmate Rodrigo Hull said.
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In Aurora, Villalon was part of a large family and a squad of four close friends.
"A genuinely good person and really funny," said friend Marlo Guzon.
Guzon exchanged social media messages with Villalon Friday. The next day he learned his friend was gone.
"It really hits home for me," Guzon said. "It's like I lost a part of me."
Villalon was part of the ROTC program at East Aurora, the largest program in the country with 600 students. But his instructor Retired Chief Petty Officer George Allen says Villalon stood out. He was a captain of the physical drill team and a leader.
George Allen says he interacted with Villalon daily while he attended the school.
"He was the type of person that when he decided he was going to do something, he did it 100 percent and was committed to it," Allen said.
East Aurora School District 131 released a statement saying:
"We are grateful to Miguel for his courage and service to our nation. We extend our sincere condolences to Miguel's family, friends, and all those who loved him."
Aurora's Mayor says the flags here will fly at half-staff until the first sunrise after Villalon is laid to rest.
In a statement Sunday, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin called Villalon "a young soldier with dreams for the future and a desire to make a difference in the world today."
"Much like all of us who have left from our hometown of Aurora to serve our country, our goal is to do our job well and return to our family and friends," Irvin said. "Sadly, Miguel made the ultimate sacrifice as he protected our freedom from the front lines."
The school has not received word on funeral plans yet. Villalon's body is being returned to the U.S. later this week, and his family is traveling to meet him.
Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin, 29, of Newport News, Virginia was also killed. Both soldiers were assigned to 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Aurora community honors local US soldier killed in Afghanistan by roadside bomb
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