Fort Hood Soldier's Fiancée Is Planning Funeral Instead of Wedding

"I didn't want to believe it. I wanted him to call and say, 'It's a misunderstanding; I'm right here'"

The fiancée of the Texas soldier killed in last week's flooding accident at Fort Hood is now planning a funeral instead of a wedding.

Deje Lara said the couple had planned to get married next month.

Private Isaac Deleon, 19, was the youngest of nine soldiers who died when their truck overturned Thursday morning in floodwaters during a training exercise. He's the only Texas native killed.

Deleon and Lara, 18, met at Central High School in San Angelo when she was a freshman and he was a sophomore.

"He was so funny and knew how to make everyone laugh," Lara said in an interview Monday.

Isaac Deleon, 19, was the youngest and the only Texan among the nine soldiers who died when their truck overturned in floodwaters at Fort Hood. He was also engaged to be married.

But it wasn't exactly love at first sight, she said.

"When I first saw him, he was mean," she remembered. "He was one of those mean class clown boys."

Then, they took ROTC together. They started talking, and he invited her to homecoming.

"It was like we were friends," Lara said. "He didn't know how to hold my hand or give me a hug or walk me to class. I was like, 'This is what you've got to do.'"

Lara said Deleon learned quickly.

"By month three of our relationship, we were best friends. Inseparable," she recalled.

Deleon graduated in 2015 and decided to go into the Army.

"I told myself I would never marry into the military because of reasons like this," Lara said. "And he always reassured me. He was like, 'Babe, I will always come home to you. I will always be there.'"

[NATL-DFW] Faces of the Fort Hood Fallen

The two talked on the phone every day while Deleon was away at Fort Hood.

He called Thursday morning before he died.

"There it is, 10:17," Lara said, looking at her cellphone. "We were on the phone for a minute."

Deleon told her he was going on a training exercise and they'd talk later, she said.

"So I told him OK, that I loved him and just to be safe, because he told me it was raining bad over there," Lara said. "And he told me, 'I love you.' And I go, 'I love you too,' and then he hung up the phone."

That was the last time she heard his voice.

She tried to call him later, never thinking there was a problem.

"I was calling him and calling him and nothing," she said.

A friend shared the news of the training accident, but Lara didn't believe Deleon had been a part of it.

"And I left him a voicemail, and I was like, 'Babe, this is not happening right now. I need you to call me so I know you are OK.' I was texting. I was like, 'Why aren't you answering me?'" Lara said. "I texted him, 'You should be off already.' I was telling him, 'Thanks for telling me you were going to turn your phone off.'"

A paramedic who treated three Fort Hood soldiers said they survived by clinging to a tree branch and, exhausted, kept asking about their missing fellow troopers.

As the night dragged on, her messages grew more desperate.

"Isaac, I love you so much. Babe please answer me," one message said.

She kept texting.

"You're my strong soldier, Isaac. Baby, I'm right here with you," another message said.

At about 2:30 a.m. Friday, Deleon's parents showed up at her house after Army chaplains delivered the news.

"I was so in shock, I froze," she said. "I didn't want to believe it. I wanted him to call and say, 'It's a misunderstanding; I'm right here.'"

She said Deleon had been planning to see her later that day. The couple had intended to reveal their wedding date — next month — to family and friends on Saturday.

deleon tattoo 060616
NBC 5 News
Deja Lara got a tattoo in memory of her fiance, Army Private Isaac Deleon.

Instead, she went to get a tattoo on her left arm: "I am because you were."

"I am the person I am today because of the person he was," she explained.

Lara has questions for the Army about why and how the accident happened.

Fort Hood commanders said they were in the process of closing roads when the soldiers' truck overturned. Lara wants to know why they didn't do it sooner.

"I hate to be mad at the Army for this because it's what he loved doing. But I am," she said. "And I blame whoever called the orders."

The Army is investigating, while Lara is grieving.

Even now, she still sends text messages to Deleon — the last on Sunday night.

"Goodnight and I love you," it read.

"I'm just hoping I wake up and he's there," she said.

She said Deleon was planning to go to Iraq later this year.

"I was prepared if he didn't come back from deployment," she said. "But I was not prepared to hear that he got killed in a training exercise."

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