Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today presented New York's highest military award for courage and heroism, the New York State Medal of Valor, to Sergeant 1st Class Raymond Presley III, who risked his own life to save a fellow Guardsman following a horrific accident on the New York State Thruway. The ceremony to honor the New York Army National Guard soldier was held today as part of the Veterans and Military Families Summit.
Im proud to present New Yorks highest honor to a true hero, Sgt. Raymond Presley III, Governor Cuomo said. When he saw a car crash on the side of the road, Sgt. Presley didnt hesitate to leap into action, organizing other drivers who had stopped to help and ultimately saving the life of one of his brothers-in-arms. Im inspired by his courage and deeply grateful for his service.
Presley, a tractor-trailer driver in civilian life, was driving his truck on the New York State Thruway near exit 35, outside Syracuse, when he passed a pickup truck which had gone off the road and struck a bridge abutment. Presley pulled over to help as five passing motorists worked to extract the driver from the wrecked pickup, which was beginning to catch fire. As he approached the burning vehicle Presley realized that the driver was a man he serves with -- Army National Guard Captain Timothy Neild.
Thats my captain. Were not leaving him, Presley reportedly yelled as he moved toward the now burning truck. Presley took charge of the situation, directing the other rescuers as they put out fires that ignited Neilds clothing, fighting the flames with a fire extinguisher, prying open the door to the truck, and eventually extracting Neild from the wreckage.
Presley and the five civilians, joined by Army National Guard Sgt. John Tirinato and New York State Trooper Joseph Krywalski, pulled Neild away from the flaming pickup truck before it exploded.
After moving Neild away from the exploding truck, one of the rescuers, Dr. Christopher Sewell, an orthopedic surgeon who stopped upon seeing the accident, began treating the captains injuries. During this time Presley assisted in treating Neild and spoke repeatedly to him, telling him that help was coming.
Also stopping to help Captain Neild were Thomas Buckle, Kevin Harriman, Sherry Kline, Kevin Shier, who all said that Sgt. Presley's example and refusal to leave his comrade played a key role in motivating them to rescue the injured man. Thomas Buckle said, Without the emotion, passion and love that Sgt. 1st Class Presley displayed I do not believe that we would have pried the door open to save Captain Neild.
The citation on Presley's award says, Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Presleys utter disregard for his own safety, extraordinary gallantry, courage and valor are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service.
Presley, a North Syracuse resident, was joined for the award ceremony by his wife Lisa Lynn Presley.
Presley, age 48, has served in the New York Army National Guard since 1991 and is assigned to the Syracuse-based 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team as a transportation logistics sergeant. He deployed to Afghanistan with the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in 2008 when the brigade served there to train the Afghan National Army. His other military awards include the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghan Campaign Medal, the NATO Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, and the Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon.