Dozens of spectators, city leaders and military officials are expected to line the streets of Northeast Tarrant County on Saturday to honor a 29-year-old Keller soldier who was killed in Afghanistan this month.
Staff Sgt. Alex Anthony Viola was fatally wounded in Kandahar province by an improvised explosive device, the State Department said. Viola had been in Afghanistan for five weeks on his first deployment, his mother, Margaret Viola, told the Star-Telegram.
His funeral will begin at noon at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Keller, followed by the procession to Bluebonnet Hills Memorial Park in Colleyville.
Viola was a source of pride for his parents, Margaret Viola said. The soldier’s lifetime goal was to serve in an elite military unit, she said. The family urged him to get a college education first and then “go in as an officer.”
He followed that advice and earned an engineering degree from the University of North Texas. Then he entered the Navy and was accepted for SEAL training but was injured during “hell week,” she said.
He refused to give up and re-entered the military, but not as an officer. He became an engineer sergeant with the Army Special Forces.
Viola was born in New York and moved with his family to Keller when he was 9. He was active in sports, and he especially liked hockey and played on a combined team for Keller and Fossil Ridge high schools.
Viola graduated from UNT in four years, his mother said.
His drive to be in the military intensified when he didn’t get into the SEALs.
“At first we were nervous and we tried to talk him into getting a normal job, but he didn’t want it,” she said. “So we supported him.”
Viola joined the Army National Guard in June 2009 and began Special Forces training in April 2010 at Fort Bragg, N.C. He graduated from the Special Forces qualification course in June 2011 and was assigned to the 19th Special Forces Group at Camp Williams, Utah.
This March, he was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
According to the Army Special Forces Command, Viola earned several awards and decorations, including the Army Achievement Medal, the Parachutist Badge, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Special Operations Dive Badge.
“He was just a great guy and I’m not saying that because I’m his mother,” Margaret Viola said. “This is what he wanted to do, and he kept trying and training. We were just in awe of him, his drive to do that.”