Like millions of Soldiers in Basic Combat Training before him, he sat in a chair and talked about his child with his wife.
Unlike those millions of Soldiers, Pvt. David Villegas of Delta Company, 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, was talking to his wife via a live-feed provided by The Ellen Show as his wife was sitting in a Los Angeles’ television Green Room after she was ambushed by Ellen DeGeneres in studio Oct. 31.
“You said it went viral,” Villegas said to his wife, Vanessa. “I didn’t know you meant this viral!”
The “it” Villegas referred to was a short video clip shot by Vanessa of their daughter, Elianna, as she received a bear for her birthday from Villegas. The bear had an audio recording of Villegas and his daughter’s reaction was priceless.
To date, the video has been shared, retweeted and liked over 150,000 times. In the first 24 hours, the video first shared on Twitter Oct. 11 received 15,000 retweets and 30,000 likes according to a San Antonio television station.
Villegas, who is in week six of basic combat training, possessed the foresight to make the bear and record his message before coming to Fort Jackson from his San Antonio home.
He had talked with his wife over the phone shortly after Elianna’s birthday and knew there was a video that had gone viral, but he had no idea it would culminate in a crazy two-week adventure with him surprising his Family on television.
“He kept it to himself, we didn’t even know about the video until we were contacted by the chain of command,” said Staff Sgt. Derek Smith, Villegas’ senior drill sergeant. “He’s a good Soldier, he’s one of the good ones.”
Villegas, who qualified as a sharpshooter on the rifle range last week, was in the field preparing for his unit’s culminating graduation exercise — The Forge — when he learned he would be coming out of the field to appear on television and surprise his wife.
“This is amazing,” said Villegas, as he arrived at the Non-commissioned Officer’s Club with his battle buddy and Smith to shoot the surprise segment. “I can’t believe this is happening.”
The surprise went swimmingly for the Villegas Family. The Ellen Show Producer Jeannie Klisiewicz explained to the young Soldier how Villegas would catch his wife and daughter unaware.
“You have the easy part, everyone on Fort Jackson is in the know,” Klisiewicz told Villegas. “Your wife and Elianna will be in the crowd disappointed that they weren’t selected for a Halloween costume segment, and then Ellen will start talking about them. That’s where you come in.”
It didn’t quite work out that way as Vanessa and Elianna were sequestered backstage, but once Ellen started to talk about the video and introduced them to the audience, it wasn’t long before Elianna was running into Ellen’s arms.
The ladies were all discussing the viral video when Ellen disclosed Villegas could not be in studio, but he was listening in and watching them on television. Then Villegas appeared on camera.
“Baby, I love you so much! Look how beautiful you look,” Villegas tearfully exclaimed of both his wife and daughter. “I miss you! Oh my God our baby looks so beautiful. You know I love you to the moon and back, baby.”
Once the segment concluded, Villegas received a surprise of his own. The show had arranged for the Family to have a private discussion via the camera.
“Thirty more days until I get you in my arms, it’s going to fly by I promise you,” Villegas said to Vanessa afterwards. “I think about you all every day, every minute, not a day goes by I don’t think about you. You just take care of baby girl.”
Villegas is scheduled to graduate Nov. 30. His Family will be driving from San Antonio to here and then take him to his Advanced Individual Training at Joint Base Eustis-Langley in Virginia There he will train to become a 15T UH-60 Helicopter Repairer.
Before the surprise Villegas told Klisiewicz how crazy the last two weeks had been. His Family had never even left Texas before and now they were in Los Angeles. She told him this was a great opportunity and he should cherish the memories.
“He has such a good soul,” Klisiewicz said of Villegas. “You can see that when you talk with him.”
The Ellen Show aired Nov. 1 and Villegas’ segment can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0_SlNck8kE.