WACO, Texas — Two McLennan County soldiers who died in the line of duty will be included in the county's memorial honoring county soldiers who died during the War on Terror after a technicality kept them off.
Javier Antonio Villanueva and Jeffrey Paul Shaffer both grew up in McLennan County before fighting in the United States Army. Villanuea served as a combat medic, while Shaffer served as a member of the a 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment. Both were killed in action in Iraq.
When the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8564 and Phipps Memorial came together to build the monuments in 2018, they only included soldiers who wrote down they were from McLennan County when they registered for the Army. Villanueva had moved to Temple with his wife not long before enlisting, while Shaffer was listed as an Arkansan.
As a result, neither were included in the monument's debut two years ago.
"They left our boys off that monument," Shaffer's mother, Melissa Adams, said.
This week, Robert Gamboa, a member of Waco Citizens for the Waco Vietnam Memorial, told Adams he would help get her son's name included on the monument. On Memorial Day, he, along with other Vietnam veterans, held a small ceremony honoring the lives of Shaffer and Villanueva. There, he reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring their inclusion.
"This is his hometown," Adams said. "And his hometown should recognize him. Anybody that paid that kind of a sacrifice, your hometown should be proud enough of you to recognize you."
Villanueva's brother, David LeBron II, held back tears as he talked about the emotions he felt thinking about his brother.
"It's not just Memorial Day for me. It's every day that I remember my brother, and I never forget. I wear his dog tag every day," he said.
LeBron II says he has tried to imitate the example Villanueva set during his time with the family.
"Everybody loved him," he said. "He was the head of the family, the oldest boy. I mean, he was the one everyone looked up to."
Adams says seeing so many people come out to support her son's legacy was overwhelming. She says she is excited to finally see her son's name be put in its rightful place on the monument.
"If I could, I'd say, "No, I don't want his name up there because it didn't happen,"" Adams said. "But to see it up there, it's gonna be another proud moment."
Adams described Shaffer as a big hugger with a warm smile, always joking. She said he loved life. But, now, even in his death, she says she hopes people will know of his loving spirit as a son and a father.
Shaffer has one daughter. She was two-years-old when her father died.
Adams says she is excited to show her granddaughter her dad's name on the monument when it is finally engraved. Gamboa says he hopes it will happen in the next couple weeks.
The two heroes' names will be engraved on the monument once the engraving professional is available to perform the job.