When Hurricane Sandy hit Long Island last October, North Collins resident and New York National Guard Sgt. Brandan Voss was there to help make sure people made it out of their flooded homes.
Despite water levels that reached the 5-foot-7-inch military policeman’s chin, Voss helped get 28 people to safety, and their pets.
“One family brought two dogs and one family brought a bird,” he said.
Voss recently won the New York State Medal of Valor, the most prestigious medal given in New York, for his work in Long Island. Receiving the medal was an honor, Voss said, but not the only one.
“It’s an honor to be a part of a group of people that showed courage to go do that,” he said.
Voss, 23, was among five soldiers to receive the medal at a ceremony during the last week of April. He is a member of the 105th Military Company out of Buffalo.
After making the seven hour drive to Long Island on Oct. 29, Voss and several other members of his unit were dispatched to Island Park Fire Department around 6:30 p.m., just as Hurricane Sandy started to hit.
“At first, it was just raining with some wind,” Voss said. “It started getting worse and worse as the minutes went by.”
Voss and the other members of his team assigned to the Island Park Fire Department received a call of a house fire almost immediately after arriving at the fire station. When they arrived on the scene, they began going door-to-door to the surrounding houses in the area, and clearing people out of the homes. The water level was rising by the minute, Voss said, among other distractions.
“At night, you would think it would be quiet,” he said. “But there were car alarms going off and electricity going off.”
Voss spent hours carrying people from the houses to the fire truck and then to the fire station in the cold, 4-and-a-half-foot deep water. He ended up spending the night at the fire station.
“It was a pretty eventful night,” he said. “The hours, it didn’t seem like it was that long.”
Despite quickly moving debris in the water and downed electrical poles sparking nearby, personal safety didn’t “click in” for Voss and his team members.
“We were just worried about everyone else,” he said.
For Voss, who served in Iraq in 2011, the training he has received in the military helped out during the situation.
“We didn’t panic or anything,” he said.
Voss recently signed on for three more years in the National Guard, and will graduate from Erie Community College with a degree in police science over the summer. He graduated from the Erie County Police Training Academy in March 2012, and is currently looking for a job in law enforcement.