The veterans were participating in a parade in their honor as part of a string of celebrations designed to honor them before they went on a specially-organized hunt.
Painter told KAMC the event typically attracts more than 3,000 people and organizers had expected a similar turnout Thursday night.
"We just wanted to honor these guys," Painter--who served two years as a Marine in Viet Nam--said.
"I haven't seen this many fallen brothers since my time in Viet Nam," he said.
Painter's department is assisting the Midland Police Department and DPS Troopers with the accident's investigation.
Accident investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are also en route to Midland to investigate.