Guard Member Recognized for Bravery during Hurricane Sandy
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the New York State Medal of Valor, the state’s highest military award for heroism, is being awarded to New York Guard Lt. Col. Martin Ingram of Queens.
“I am proud that New York’s highest honor will be given to a local hero, Lt. Col. Martin Ingram for his selfless efforts to help fellow New Yorkers during Superstorm Sandy,” Governor Cuomo said. “A Queens resident, Lt. Col. Ingram put the needs of New Yorkers in harm’s way first, without regard to his own safety. I thank him for his dedication to the people of New York and I am inspired by his courageous efforts.”
Ingram is being recognized for his heroism while serving as fire chief of the Breezy Point Volunteer Fire Department on Oct. 29, 2012 as Hurricane Sandy flooded the ocean front community, and fire destroyed many of the areas structures. Ingram led the efforts to evacuate citizens from rising flood waters, entered a burning building to save a stranded resident and extinguish the fire—saving other buildings from being destroyed—and rallied other members of his fire department by his personal example.
The New York Guard is a volunteer state defense force whose members augment the actions of the New York National Guard during state missions and state emergencies. Ingram has been a member of the New York Guard since 2004 and currently serves as commander of the New York Guard’s 88th Brigade, headquartered at Lexington Avenue Armory.
The award will be presented to Ingram on Saturday, March 14, during a New York Guard leaders meeting at Camp Smith Training Site, the New York National Guard training facility outside Peekskill. Photos of Lt. Col. Ingram are available here and here.
The Medal of Valor is awarded to any member of New York’s organized militia, which is composed of the New York Army and Air National Guard, the New York Naval Militia, and the New York Guard. The medal is awarded for acts of valor, heroism, courage or gallantry in either a civilian or military capacity.
Ingram, 64, will receive the Medal of Valor from New York Guard Brig. Gen. Stephen Bucaria, the commander of the New York Guard.
On Oct. 28, 2012, Ingram led his volunteer fire department in preparing to shelter area residents from Hurricane Sandy when it made landfill. At his direction the Breezy Point Volunteer Fire Department firehouse was manned around the clock, fire-fighting equipment was checked and prepared and food, cots, lights and generators were gathered for an extended rescue and shelter operation.
As the storm hit on Oct. 29, though, the storm surge was higher than expected and at 7 p.m. the fire house began flooding. Ingram led his volunteers and the residents sheltering at the fire station to an alternate location at the Point Breeze Association clubhouse.
That location began to flood as well and, at the same time, a fire had broken out in small wooden homes built close together. The clubhouse the fire fighters and evacuees were sheltering was downwind of that fire, which was moving closer and closer to Ingram’s location.
Ingram determined that the group had to move once again and led the evacuation. Heedless of his personal safety, he dove into five feet deep water to start two fire trucks needed to move volunteer fire fighters and rescued residents to yet another shelter location.
While en route to that third location, a call came in announcing that an elderly resident with a serious medical condition, living a half mile from the blazing houses, needed to be evacuated. Ingram answered the call.
When he arrived at the location he found that the house where the resident lived was on fire itself. He led an effort to extinguish that fire, despite low water pressure in the hose, and evacuated the elderly resident along with the others who had been sheltering at the fire department and then the Point Breeze Association clubhouse.
“All this was achieved under the most challenging of circumstances, with great risk to his own personal safety,” his citation says.
As the long night went on, Ingram continued leading his volunteer firefighters in an effort to save houses on Breezy Point from the fires. He and his volunteers were in the front lines battling the six alarm fire as propane grill tanks and care gasoline tanks exploded, increasing the danger and making it harder to fight the fires.
While 125 homes were lost to the fire- -the largest residential structural fire in New York City since 1865—no lives were lost, and Ingram’s efforts and example played a role in this, his citation says.
The New York Guard was first organized during World War I to replace National Guard Soldiers who were serving in France. In World War II, while serving in Europe and the Pacific, the New York Guard was stood up once again.
Since the 1950s the New York Guard has served as a force to assist the Army and Air National Guard. New York Guard members train in an unpaid volunteer status and do not deploy outside of the state. New York Guard members have provided logistics and administrative support to the National Guard during responses to Hurricanes Irene and Sandy in 2011 and 2012 as well as during the state response to the November lake effect snowstorm which left up to seven feet of snow covering Erie County in November 2014.
Other recent awards of the Medal of Valor include:
- New York Army National Guard Soldiers Sgt. Kenny Bharose, Sgt. 1st Class Israel Mahadeo and Sgt. Michael Palopoli, Sergeant Brandan Voss and Specialist Isaac Wieboldt for their life-savings action on Oct, 29, 2012 as Hurricane Sandy hit Long Island;
- New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Presley for his actions in saving New York Army National Guard Capt. Timothy Neild from a flaming car wreck on Dec. 9, 2013;
- New York Army National Guard Sergeant Martin Gonzalez for his actions on Oct. 29, 2011, while serving as a Village of Liberty police officer, when he rescued two men from a collapsing building.
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