Entries in parade (4)


Soldier’s Surprise Homecoming at Christmas Parade Shocks Family

Shelby Police(SHELBY, N.C.) -- An unexpected event stole the show during the annual Christmas parade in Shelby, N.C.

Specialist Walter Smith, 26, returned home early from Afghanistan to surprise his family along the parade route by popping out of the backseat of an antique Shelby police patrol car that was part of the celebration.

“I was the lucky one that got to carry him,” Shelby Police Chief Jeff Ledford told ABC News.  "It was well worth it. That was a highlight of the parade. They had no idea.”

One of Smith’s cousins, Gloria Philbeck, works as a telecommunicator for the police department and asked Ledford if the department could help organize the surprise. He obliged, and was excited to take part in the family’s special moment.

“She came to me about a week ago and said he was coming home. They wanted to make it special and make sure that nobody would know. So we just started arranging,” Ledford said. “How do we pull this off and make it really cool? So we lay him in the backseat and cover him up with a raincoat.”

Once the patrol car reached the point where Smith’s family was located on the sidewalk, Ledford stopped the car, walked over to Smith’s grandmother and told her Santa had an early Christmas present for her.

“We had our Honor Guard keyed in so they knew. They spun around to salute him,” Ledford explained. “It was one of the coolest moments, other than the grandmother’s face when I told her Santa was bringing them a present a little early. The look on her face was priceless."

“He goes halfway to the family and he heard the Honor Guard salute him. And he turned around and saluted them back. That’s when the crowd erupted. They heard his grandmother screaming, and that’s when they knew they were witnessing something amazing. You almost didn’t want to go back and finish the parade. You just wanted to stay there and celebrate.”

Smith, who had been deployed to Afghanistan for seven and a half months, originally wasn’t scheduled to return home until April 2013. But the second he learned of his early homecoming, he started planning the surprise.

“I was planning it as soon as I knew I was coming home,” Smith said. “I knew the Christmas parade was the week after I came home, and I knew they’d all be there. They all went crazy when I showed my face. I think my grandma and my mom were the most excited.”

But they weren’t the only women he rushed home to surprise. His baby daughter, Serena, was born two and a half months ago.

“I got to see her for the first time. It meant the world to me,” said Smith.

Smith is home for good now and is keeping busy Christmas shopping and playing with his little girl.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Midland, Texas Train Crash: Hero Vets Die Saving Wives

Joseph Devenney/Getty Images(MIDLAND, Texas) -- Police have identified the four servicemen who died in Midland, Texas when a freight train plowed into a parade float carrying wounded veterans and their spouses at a crossing, two of whom saved their wives by pushing them to safety before they died.

Army Sgt. Maj. Gary Stouffer, 37, and 47-year-old Army Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin were pronounced dead at the scene, police said, after the float carrying wounded veterans and their families to an honorary banquet was struck by a Union Pacific train around 4:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon. The train struck as the parade was crossing the tracks, turning the honorary event into a scene of destruction.

Army Sgt. Joshua Michael, 34, and 43-year-old Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers were transported from the scene and later pronounced dead at Midland Memorial Hospital, according to the Midland Police.

Seventeen people in all were transported to the hospital and 10 were treated and released. Four people were in stable condition and one is in critical condition as of Friday morning.


Michael was killed in the crash but was able to save his wife, his mother-in-law told the Amarillo Globe-News.

"He pushed his wife off the float -- my daughter," Mary Hefley told the newspaper. "He was that kind of guy. He always had a smile on his face. He would do for others before he would do for himself."

Hefley said Michael retired from the Army due to health reasons.

According to a website set up by Cory Rogers, a friend of Michael's family, the father of two completed two tours of duty in Iraq, and received two Purple Hearts after being wounded in combat.

"His love of country and for his wife, Daylyn and their two children shone through," his family said in a statement on the site. "The family appreciates everyone's thoughts and prayers in this very difficult time."

Sgt. Maj. Boivin also pushed his wife out of the way before he was hit, Jaime Garza told ABC News. He said that his wife was hurt in the crash, but survived. Boivin died in his arms, Garza said.

Garza said that he and his wife Denise lost their son in Afghanistan seven years ago. On Thursday, they were driving in a separate car about a block away, helping escort the floats.

"I looked in my rear view mirror. That's when I saw the train hit the float," he said. "I made a quick U-turn to get back up there. The first person who was there was Lawrence. I had to help him out ... and he gave me his last breath ... He actually pushed [his wife] off the float and then he got hit."

Denise Garza said that the entire incident happened very fast.

"Everybody was getting help in two seconds. Everybody had help. It was like the best response," she said. "It was terrible. The worst thing I've ever seen in my whole life."

About two dozen veterans and their spouses had been sitting in chairs on the back of a flatbed tractor-trailer decorated with American flags and signs identifying each veteran.

The first truck crossed the tracks in time, but the second did not, according to Hamid Vatankhah, a witness who owns a used car lot near the scene of the crash.

Sirens from the police cars in the parade may have drowned out the sound of the approaching train, Vatankhah said.

The impact, witnesses say, was deafening as the train plowed through the parade float crossing the tracks in an industrial part of Midland.

"Some people were able to jump, and some that were sitting in wheelchairs on top couldn't do nothing about it," Vatankhah said.

Patricia Howle was sitting traffic with her daughter watching the parade go by when she heard the train honking its horn.

"I just saw people going under the train," said eyewitness Eservando Wisler. "There was blood. There was blood all over."

A Union Pacific spokesman, Tom Lange, said it appeared safety devices at the crash site were working. But there were conflicting reports by eyewitnesses about whether the gates went down at the crossing when the train approached.

"I saw the truck crossing the tracks. About halfway across the gates started coming down. The truck tried to blow his horn to get the other people in front of him out of the way. The gates actually hit the first people on the trailer," witness Michael Briggs said.

"Our preliminary findings indicate that the lights and gates were working at the time of the incident and that our train crew sounded the locomotive horn," said Lange.

The National Transportation Safety Board was at the scene and has launched an investigation into the accident.

On Friday evening, an NTSB official said video recorders from the train were on their way to Washington for analysis by the board.

He added that there have been prior accidents at the scene of Thursday's disaster.

"There were some accidents from 1979 to 1997 but there has not been an accident at this train crossing in the last 15 years, so the question is what might have changed in that period of time," said the official, Mark Rosekind.

The Texas Department of Transportation told ABC News that the state has actually seen vehicle and train-related fatalities decline 68 percent the last 10 years.

Regarding Thursday's accident, NTSB investigators should be able to determine the speed of the train, as well as whether the train's horn was sounded prior to the accident, when they examine the train's black box.

Rosekind said the NTSB also will be able to study the circumstances of the accident in other ways.

"Our investigators are looking at the rules, regulations, requirements, permits, related to the parade," Rosekind said. "Specifically, we're going to be looking at what the requirements are in notifying the railroad and whether all the procedures, permits, etc., were actually followed, by everyone."

"Our mission is to determine the probable cause, which is determining not just what happened but why," he said, "and that why is critical for us to determine what safety recommendations need to be issued so this does not happen again."

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta "was deeply saddened by news of the tragic accident involving veteran heroes and their spouses in Midland," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement. "His thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, with those injured in this incident, and with the entire community."

"It's obviously a real sad day for Midland, Texas. This may be one of the most tragic events we've had in our town," Mayor Wes Perry said.

Perry Friday hosted a community-wide prayer vigil to help show support for the victims and their families that have been affected by the incident at the Centennial Plaza in Downtown Midland. Mayor Perry is asking citizens to show support by lowering their flags to half-mast until Monday morning at 8 a.m.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Frosty the Snowman' Arrested at Maryland Parade

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) -- A Chestertown, Md., man was arrested during a Christmas parade on Saturday, accused of scuffling with police and kicking at a police dog while dressed as Frosty the Snowman, according to Maryland's The Star Democrat.

Kevin Michael Walsh, 52, allegedly became agitated when a dog-handling officer tried to escort him away from the crowd, according to Sergeant John A. Dolgos.

Walsh says that he has dressed as Frosty in the parade for the last ten years and claims that he was wrongfully arrested. He says an officer “hassled” him after he commented on the police dog’s presence.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fourth of July Honors for Widow, Infant Son in Holiday Parade

Comstock(LEWISBURG, Tenn.) -- While most Fourth of July parades opt for a celebrity grand marshal, in Lewisburg, Tenn., parade chairman Jamie Bone wanted his grand marshal to be someone different, "someone who has truly made a difference in the world."

So he called 22-year-old Crissie Carpenter, who became a widow and a single mother in February when her husband, a Marine, was shot in Afghanistan.

"At first I was unsure if I wanted to do it," Carpenter said. After thinking it over for a couple of days, she decided, "It's an honor for me to do it for Andy."

On Valentine's Day, Crissie received word that her husband, a lance corporal, had been shot in the neck while serving in Helmand Province, put on a ventilator and transported to Germany.

Just five days later, Crissie Carpenter was overwhelmed with a difficult decision: "I had to say it's O.K. to turn off the ventilator," she said.

Andrew Carpenter, age 27, died Feb. 19, and three weeks later his wife gave birth to a boy, Landon -- a name they had picked together.

Bone said more local organizations and businesses have joined the Lewisburg parade this year because of Crissie Carpenter.

"We've had a tremendous response," he said. "We're expecting this to be the largest parade we've ever had."

It's a bright note for Lewisburg, a small town that's less than an hour from Nashville. Like many towns in America, it's been struggling with high rates of unemployment.

During the procession Carpenter will ride with her son in a horse-drawn wagon followed by another wagon with the parade's honorary grand marshals: the families of three Lewisburg veterans who died in recent years.

Landon, Crissie's son, will be wearing a onesie that says, 'My Daddy Died for Our Freedom' and she, along with her family, will wear T-shirts with Andrew's name on it.

Although Carpenter says she is still angry about what happened to her husband, she wants her son to grow up knowing his dad was a hero. "In the sense that everybody is there for me, it does feel good," she said. "I hope Landon will one day be able to look back at it … to see that everyone came together … I would think he would be very thankful for what they did for me."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio