KELLER -- Friends, neighbors, and strangers decorated the entrance to a Keller subdivision.

American flags wave in every front lawn. A patriotic wreath is on the corner. And a homemade sign thanks the hometown hero.

'The support has been overwhelming,' Frank Viola said. 'It really has.'

But the grief is overwhelming, too.

Frank and his wife, Peggy, sat together on a couch, and tried to offer strength to each other as they reflected on their son's life -- a life well-lived but cut too short.

'I couldn't ask for a better son,' Frank said.

'He always told us he didn't want to have any regrets,' Peggy said.

They said Alex knew when he was nine years old he wanted to serve in the special forces. After high school, he wanted to join the military, but his parents suggested he go to college first, then enter as an officer. He graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in mechanical engineering.

After college, in training to be a Navy SEAL, he was injured. He decided to transfer to the Army. But Frank said the Army wouldn't let him transfer as an officer.

'He gave up half his salary, gave up his title, and of course, I was concerned about that. He said, 'Dad, it's not about the money.' For him, he didn't even care about the title. He wanted to be with the troops. He didn't want to be in an office job, didn't want to be an officer,' Frank said. 'He wanted to be with the guys.'

Viola became a Green Beret.

He was a high achiever. The Department of Defense says he was the recipient of the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Development Ribbon with Numeral 2, the Army Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, the Parachutist Badge, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Special Operations Dive Badge, and the Special Forces Tab.

'He had the most incredible, impressive credentials,' Frank said. 'Basically, he was doing what he loved to do and unfortunately, his dream was cut short.'

Alex, 29, and a 2002 graduate of Keller High School, volunteered for a mission to Afghanistan.

Last Friday, during a phone call, he told his father he planned to leave the Army after he'd fulfilled his obligation.

'He was clearly in love and wanted to enter a different phase of his life. We had that discussion Friday,' Frank said.

Sunday, five weeks into Alex's deployment, he was killed by an explosive device.

'His dream turned into our nightmare,' Frank said. 'He'd already achieved everything he wanted to achieve as far as being a Green Beret, and all that. His next challenge was marriage, family. It's a terrible thing it's all cut short.'

Alex's girlfriend lives in Florida, where Alex was based. She will travel to Texas soon for Alex's services. A date has not yet been set.


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