Staff Sgt. Joel Pena
10th Mountain Division Journalist
The American Red Cross of Northern New York honored the Fort Drum community and 17 individuals from northern New York for their actions Feb. 5 during the Real Heroes Breakfast at the Samaritan Summit Village in Watertown.
The Real Heroes Breakfast celebrates the Red Cross mission of alleviating human suffering by recognizing people from throughout Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties who performed heroic acts in life-threatening situations.
The ceremony began with the presentation of the nation’s colors, a procession of American Red Cross volunteers and staff, and the heroes who were being honored that morning.
After the procession, Thomas G. Cesta, chairman of the American Red Cross of Northern New York board of directors, gave a warm welcome to all the guests, sponsors and awardees present. Cesta then introduced Jane G. Gendron, American Red Cross of Central New York chapter executive.
“I want to echo Tom’s thanks to our sponsors and of course our guests,” Gendron said. “Our mission is to alleviate human suffering, and that is what our volunteers do on a regular basis in northern New York and around the world. It’s a pleasure for us as an organization that is built around helping people to honor northern New Yorkers who believe in the same thing.”
After Gendron’s speech, Cindy Habeeb, mistress of ceremonies, addressed the crowd.
“We are often confused today by the definition of what is a hero,” she said. “Is nice to be here today, so we can see in truth, what really is a hero. So now, ladies and gentlemen, let’s hear the remarkable stories of northern New York’s real heroes.”
Of the awards presented, four went to representatives from Fort Drum.
wScott Sanford, a full-time emergency responder with Fort Drum Fire and Emergency Services, received the Medical Award.
On Sep. 26, Sanford and his crew were dispatched to the home of 28-year-old Brandi Scullion. When they got to the house, Scullion was in active labor and needed to be transported to Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown.
However, on the way to the hospital, the ambulance had to pull over, and Sanford took on the major responsibility of delivering the baby. He was successful, and Scullion gave birth to a baby girl, whom she named Adaleigh.
Sanford would say he was only doing his job, but Scullion – and one day, Adaleigh – would say he was a real hero.
wSgt. Joel DiStefano, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, received the Military Award.
DiStefano was on leave and driving to his hometown of Huttonsville, W.Va., when he wit-
nessed an accident involving three young women in a flipped car. One was ejected from the car, and the other two were badly bruised.
DiStefano accompanied the victims to a local hospital and stayed with them until their parents arrived from Ohio.
“It was a case of being at the right place at the right time,” DiStefano said. “It’s a great honor to receive this award. I’m really humbled. In two or three weeks, I’m going to go see them, to see how they are doing and to meet their families.”
wCol. Gary A. Rosenberg, Fort Drum garrison commander, accepted the Blood Donor Award on behalf of the installation for providing the most units of blood annually in the American Red Cross New York-Pennsylvania region.
The 10 drives at Fort Drum in 2013 collected 690 pints of blood – enough to save more than 2,000 lives.
“As you can see by the numbers, it is a major boon for the community,” said Cheryl Dean, Fort Drum Red Cross station manager. “It’s just one example of how the Fort Drum Family, led by the Fort Drum garrison commander, Col. Gary Rosenberg, contributes to the health and welfare of everyone in the central New York region.”
“Unlike all the other heroes here present,” Rosenberg said, “I’m accepting this award on behalf of a bunch of heroes – the military, Red Cross, along with the thousands of Soldiers, Civilians and Family Members – many whom are not here today. These are the real heroes, and I’m humbled to receive this award on their behalf.”
wCapt. Jay Branson, who is currently deployed to Afghanistan with 3rd Brigade Combat Team, also received the Medical Award, along with a local doctor, for saving a man’s life in a local restaurant by performing CPR.
After about 90 seconds, the crowd at the restaurant breathed a simultaneous sigh of relief as the man began breathing on his own.
Other Real Hero award recipients included a Spanish teacher and mother of three who donated one of her kidneys to a former student; a woman who performed CPR on her 5-year-old son; and a 13-year-old girl who saved her 2-year-old cousin from drowning.
Proceeds from the Real Heroes Breakfast benefit the American Red Cross, which provides relief to victims of disasters and helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.
Working families in northern New York require almost daily emergency assistance because of home fires and other disasters, and in the fiscal year that ended June 30, the Red Cross provided more than $86,000 to 284 people from 90 families impacted by disasters in Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties.