Owners of U.S. flags in Midland, Texas, have been asked by the mayor of Midland to fly them at half-staff until Monday, to honor the memory of the four Wounded Warriors that lost their lives in a parade/train wreck Thursday, November 15.  It was all planned to be a celebration, with two floats being pulled by 18-wheelers, all decorated with the names of the veterans.  The day’s event, including the parade, had been organized by Show Of Support, a local veterans group. The parade was scheduled to end at a “Hunt for Heroes” banquet honoring the veterans, who were then to be given a deer-hunting trip over the weekend. The events were canceled. 

Four of those killed were veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, including an Army sergeant who saved his wife’s life, by pushing her from the float.  Another vet, also lost his life, but saved his wife.  Those who were in wheelchairs were unable to escape injury.  Along with the four military veterans who died Thursday, seventeen more were injured.  Some have been released from the hospital, but one remains in critical condition.  There were 26 people on the flatbed when it was struck, police said.

Witnesses report that the train was going around 60 mph, (below the speed limit) when it hit the float.  There was so much noise from sirens, etc., that it is unsure that the participants even heard the trains’ whistle, and that the traffic arms came down on the first riders on the second float, according to reports. 

The National Transportation Safety Board will do a full investigation into the accident.  Questions raised included were the permits and everything in order, was the railroad notified in time, and if the timing of the crossing gates was changed to give vehicles time to cross the tracks.  They also are considering that the town’s traffic lights caused the driver of the first truck to slow down, not allowing the second one to cross soon enough.  The black box on the train will answer many questions.  Late Thursday, Union Pacific spokesman Tom Lange told reporters that a preliminary investigation indicated that the crossing gate and warning lights at the tracks were working. He said he did not know if the train crew saw the float.  Deborah Hersman, NTSB chairwoman, said the train was equipped with a forward-facing camera, which could provide images to help in the investigation.

Midland Mayor Wes Perry and pastors Patrick Payton and Roy Smith are scheduled to host a community prayer vigil for the victims and their families, officials said. Midland is about 300 miles west of Dallas.

According to officials, the parade was traveling westbound on Wall Street when it turned south on Garfield Street, crossing the train tracks. The last two floats in the parade were carrying the veterans and their spouses.

Our military and their families make sacrifices every day for us.  This celebration of their contributions turned into a very sad day for Americans.  Remember these brave persons and all who serve, both at home and abroad.  With Thanksgiving coming up, say an extra “thank you” for our military heroes and their families, who wait for their return home.