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Medal of Valor to hero of Thruway crash

ALBANY -  Governor Andrew Cuomo 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.

“I’m proud to present New York’s 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 didn’t 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. I’m inspired by his courage and deeply grateful for his service.”

Presley, 48, 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.

“That’s my captain; we’re 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 Neild’s clothing, fighting the flames with a fire extinguisher, prying open the door to the truck, and eventually extracting Neild from the wreckage.

The citation on Presley's award says, “Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Presley’s 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.