A U.S. Marine from Perry County is among the veterans killed in a train accident Thursday in Midland, Texas.
The accident left four dead and 16 wounded during a parade to honor wounded veterans and their wives.
Chief Warrant Officer Gary Stouffer, 37, was killed after a train slammed into a parade float stuck on a railroad crossing.
Stouffer and Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, 47, were pronounced dead at the scene. Army Sgt. Joshua Michael, 34, and Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers, 43, were pronounced dead later at Midland Memorial Hospital.
Stouffer was a 1993 graduate of Newport High School. His parents still live in Newport and, according to a 2009 editorial in The Patriot-News, he still goes there when he's on leave.
“Every body's a tight-knit family here in Newport,” said Jason Hockenberry, who had wrestled at Newport High School with Stouffer. “When something happens every body comes together and it's the way we are in Newport here.”
“It's the talk of the town right now,” said Steve Jury, who was a close friend of Stouffer's father. “Everywhere you go people are talking about it. Somebody…every body at least knew the boys or the parents.”
Cameron Gross, was also shaken by the news. He credited Stouffer with recruiting him to the Marines and serving as his mentor.
“To see a warrior, especially a brother in the Marine Corps to go through all that and then his traumatic brain injury, his concussion and everything, to fight through everything and this happens,” he said. “It's heart-breaking.”
Stouffer, who had been stationed in North Carolina, was in Texas to do something he'd done frequently at home in Perry County but had always wanted to do in Texas. He was an avid hunter who grew up shooting Pennsylvania's whitetail deer with a crossbow.
“It has always been a dream of mine to hunt in Texas,” he wrote in a biography for the San Angelo Standard-Times, “but with current operations and training, I have yet to experience it.”
Stouffer was selected to participate in an all-expense-paid whitetail deer hunt as part of the annual Hunt for Heroes, organized to honor injured or discharged service members.
Stouffer served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 17 years and deployed to Albania, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and twice to Iraq. Two years ago, while on a tour of Afghanistan, Stouffer's vehicle was hit by multiple IEDs. As a result of the attack, he was later diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and compression fractures in his neck and lower back.
Stouffer is survived by his wife of 16 years, Catherine Kennedy, and two children, Shannon, 16, and Shane, 12.