National Guard soldier gets Medal of Valor, New York's highest military award

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Kristin Thorne has the story from Farmingdale. (WABC)

A member of the Army National Guard was awarded New York state's highest military award for heroism after she came to the aid of two teenagers who were shot on a Syracuse street last fall.

Staff Sergeant Marlana Watson, 28, received the New York State Medal of Valor during a ceremony held Wednesday morning at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Farmingdale on Long Island.

It's an honor reserved for the very few. "You don't think that you would get a medal this high. I just did what anybody else would have done," said Watson.

But what she did is not necessarily what anyone would have done. Watson saved the lives of two teenage boys shot during a drive-by shooting upstate.

Watson was living in Syracuse last November when she heard gunshots outside her house. "I went outside and I seen two boys yelling help me, help me," she said.

Using her training as a health care specialist and what she learned during her deployment in Afghanistan, Watson rendered aid and saved the boys' lives.

"It's an incredible honor to be able to recognize one of our soldiers for a very selfless act," said Major General Patrick Murphy of the Army National Guard.

"I'm excited, a little overwhelmed," said Watson. "I didn't think this was going to happen when the incident happened. You know you don't really think of what medals I'm going to get. I feel honored by receiving this."

Watson's family and her 6 year old son Lassan say they're not surprised at all by her heroic act. They say she always puts others before herself.

"I never saw my mom get a medal before," said Watson's son, Lassan Green. "I'm holding my emotions in, she's a go-getter," said her mother, Tammy Jo Giannichhi.

Watson is now working as a recruiter here at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Farmingdale. She says if her heroic tale has inspired you to join the Army Reserves you know where to find her.

"Without hesitation, Staff Sergeant Watson placed her own personal safety at risk in order to help those in need," Governor Andrew Cuomo said. "I commend her heroic actions and am proud to see this exemplary New Yorker receive this well-deserved honor."

One boy was shot in his upper buttock. She had nothing to stop the bleeding, so Watson pulled off the boy's boot and sock and used the sock as a bandage. She turned him over to check for an exit wound, and seeing none, she asked an onlooker to hold the bandage on the wound while she checked the other victim.

The other victim was shot in the thigh and in the calf. She told him he had to lie still and let her check his wounds, because there is a major artery in the leg. That boy said he was getting cold, so Watson sent her sister inside to get a blanket. By the time her sister returned, the police and emergency medical teams arrived, and Watson turned the care of the two teens over to them.

Police later determined that passengers in a vehicle had shot at the two teenagers from behind.

Watson is an Army medic who served in Afghanistan. She lives in Lindenhurst on Long Island, where she's serving as an Army National Guard recruiter.
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