The last thing a career soldier from New Hampshire's North Country did before he died Thursday was push his wife to safety as a locomotive collided with a veterans' parade float in Texas.
Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, 47, who grew up in North Stratford, survived tours of duty in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was wounded by a grenade attack in Iraq in 2004, was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart and retired after 24 years of service, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But, Thursday he was killed in the Midland, Texas, accident, on his way to an honorary banquet.
Witnesses say the horrific crash scene may have been Boivin's finest moment.
Many news accounts of the collision between a freight train and a parade float that was carrying wounded servicemen and their spouses say that just before he was killed, Boivin pushed his wife, Angela, off the float. She was injured, but survived.
Boivin - a 1983 Stratford School graduate - was one of four servicemen killed. Seventeen others were transported to area hospitals with various injuries, including one person who remained in critical condition Friday.
Reached Friday evening at his Fayetteville, N.C., home, Boivin's father, Leonce Boivin, 75, said family members, including him and his wife, Lucette, Lawrence's mother, were devastated by the news and struggling to make final arrangements for their son.
"It's very difficult. He made it through the war. He made it through everything, and now this. We're just . I don't know. This is very hard."
The float carrying wounded veterans and their families to the banquet was struck by a Union Pacific train around 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The train hit as the parade was crossing the tracks.
Boivinwas one of two of the veterans killed at the scene just after pushing their wives to safety, according to ABC News, which said Army Sgt. Maj. Gary Stouffer, 37, was the other.
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, Midland police told ABC.
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, Hamid Vatankhah, a witness who owns a used car lot near the scene of the crash, told ABC.
Sirens from the police cars in the parade may have drowned out the sound of the approaching train, Vatankhah told ABC.
The impact was deafening as the train plowed through the parade float crossing the tracks in an industrial part of Midland, witnesses said according to reports.
A Union Pacific spokesman 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.
News of Boivin's death made its way to the North Country as the weekend approached.
The Colebrook Chronicle on Friday recalled a 1991 story in Coos Magazine that featured Boivin as one of many North Country soldiers deployed to the Persian Gulf.
A later issue contained a portion of a letter Boivin had written to his parents at the time.
"Hi Mom and Dad, It's been a hectic two weeks and I've already been on two missions and didn't lose anybody. Thank God! I'm scared, but I know whatever happens I'll always have you as parents... Don't forget I do think of you all and hope to be seeing you all sometime soon in the near future, healthy and just like before."