STILLWATER, Okla. — Oklahoma Army National Guardsmen have time and time again answered their state’s call for help in times of disaster, and when a car crashed through the crowd watching the Oklahoma State University homecoming parade on Oct. 24, Guardsmen were some of the first on the scene to help the dozens of injured.
Soldiers had just finished marching in the Homecoming parade when Adacia Chambers, 25, barreled into a crowd of people.
First. Sgt. Brent Pearce was reportedly one of the first soldiers who heard about the accident.
Several of the soldiers went to get coffee at a nearby convenience store after marching in the parade. That’s when a civilian approached First Sgt. Pearce and told him there was an accident and they might need help at the scene.
“I said, ‘Hey guys, let’s go help,'” Pearce said, mentioning he thought the accident may have been a minor fender-bender. “Then, as I got closer, I could hear people screaming and when I got to the other side [I] could see what had happened, the vehicle had ran through the crowd.”
Pearce called to his peers for help, and found a police officer to offer their assistance.
“I remember looking back and telling people ‘remember your combat lifesaver and first aid training and just start helping people,” Pearce said. “It was mass chaos.”
In the minutes and hours that followed, the soldiers helped with first aid, setting up a perimeter around the accident, and reuniting families with their loved ones.
“There was confusion because there [weren’t] enough ambulances, so we started loading people into private vehicles,” Pearce said. “I heard over the radio the hospital was overwhelmed. Soldiers started talking with families and bringing people in to [the restricted area to] see their families and letting them know which hospital they would be going to.”
The soldiers who were already on the scene called to other units from a few miles away.
Pvt. Justin Murin was one of the men who showed up to help. He was attending his first drill with his unit after basic training.
“I joined the Guard because I always wanted to become something bigger than myself,” Murin said. “I certainly wasn’t expecting something like this.”
Murin and the soldiers he was with arrived just as a medevac helicopter was landing. They took up positions around the perimeter of the intersection, allowing law enforcement and other first responders to help the injured and begin the investigation into why the woman drove into the crowd.
Murin said he has more faith in his training and his fellow soldiers after being at the scene.
“Being there reassured me I’ve done the right thing,” Murin said, referring to his purpose for enlisting. “With my training, I can be an asset. I can help people.”
The following day, 45 soldiers were presented with awards for their heroic actions in Stillwater. Twenty two Army Achievement Medals and 23 Army Commendation Medals were presented to the Soldiers by Lt. Col. Colby Wyatt, commander, 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, and Command Sgt. Maj. Danny Meeks, command sergeant major of the 45th IBCT.
“Even as we were loading the bus to leave, people were thanking us,” Pearce said. “They know the Guard is always going to be there.”