LUBBOCK, Texas — The VFW and other organizations conducted a 21-gun salute and a balloon release at the Willie McCool statue Friday at noon.

The Columbia crew’s group photo, courtesy of NASA. (Pictured: David M. Brown, left, Rick D. Husband, Laurel B. Clark, Kalpana Chawla, Michael P. Anderson, William C. “Willie” McCool, and Ilan Ramon)

McCool was both a graduate of Coronado High School and the pilot of the Space Shuttle Columbia, which exploded in the skies over Texas February 1, 2003. All seven astronauts aboard died.