Fort McCoy police officer receives medal for heroic rescue effort
BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff
Police Officer Raymond A. Brand II received the Department of the Army Civilian Service Commendation Medal for “exceptional service and performance” Nov. 29 from Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. Stephen Messenger due to “heroic” efforts to rescue two people in a vehicle accident in February 2022.
The ceremony was held at the Fort McCoy Directorate of Emergency Services headquarters with both firefighters and police officers in attendance as well as Brand’s wife Jennifer, and Command Sgt. Maj. Raquel DiDomenico, Fort McCoy Garrison command sergeant major.
Brand recalled his response on Feb. 27 to a vehicle accident in Sparta, Wis., at approximately 10:40 a.m. that involved a 67-year-old man and a 67-year-old woman — a husband and wife — from a rural area just outside of Sparta.
“I was with my family on my way to church,” Brand said. “We were heading out of town, and we were coming out on (Highway) 16 headed west. And then, as we’re almost to where it cuts from two lanes to one, there was a vehicle in my lane coming at me, and I thought to myself that I probably shouldn’t be here. As he was coming at us, he hit the ditch. I remember looking out my wife’s window, and I thought that guy’s going in the ditch, and it’s gonna be bad.
“So, I spun around,” Brand said. “I honestly don’t remember doing the U-turn. I don’t remember parking in the middle of the road. I remember running to the truck, and I remember seeing flames coming out from underneath the truck. There was another family who had stopped, too.
Brand said the man was in the driver seat.
“We were able to get this guy out,” Brand said. “We pulled him to safety, and I asked the other rescue guy, I said, hey is there somebody on the other side? He said, ‘I think so.’ So, we went around the other side. I couldn’t remember grabbing ahold of the door and thinking I was gonna have to pull really hard and the door itself fell right off, but you could see the flames coming out from underneath the dash. I started to pull this lady out while her seat belt got caught, and so I yelled for somebody to get a knife because I couldn’t get her seat belt.
“The guy on the other side came around, we pushed the lady back in, released the seatbelt, and we were able to get her out,” Brand said. “And no sooner that we got her out of the truck, it began to engulf in flames.”
The Sparta Police Department issued a news release to further explain the accident.
“On Feb. 27, 2022, at approximately 10:40 a.m., Sparta Police were called to Wisconsin Street (State Highway 16) and Aspen Boulevard for a reported single vehicle injury accident. Arriving officers located the vehicle on fire and witnesses removing two individuals from the vehicle,” the release states. “A 67-year-old female died at the scene. A 67-year-old male was transported to Gundersen in La Crosse by GundersenAIR with life-threatening injuries. During the crash, a fire hydrant was sheared off and located inside a nearby unoccupied building.”
Brand said he was sorry that both victims didn’t survive the accident, and he has heard from family members that the one survivor is still in a long recovery. He said he was just glad he was there to help in whatever way he could.
And as a retired Soldier and now a police officer who’s trained to react in emergency situations when they arise, he said he reacted to the accident without a second thought.
“I don’t know if he had a medical emergency, if she had a medical emergency … you know … that car was headed dead for us … somebody jerked that wheel and made it go off the road to avoid the head on collision with us,” Brand said. “I did what I thought anyone would do. … I did what I hope somebody would do for my family.”
Messenger said during the presentation that Brand’s actions are indicative of how emergency responders are no matter where they are whether on duty or off duty. Essentially saying they are never really off duty.
“You all do incredible things on duty all the time, which prepares you to do incredible things off duty all the time,” Messenger said. “This is a heroic act that has a little bit of a sad story there at the end but through that all Ray saved a life. Again, it’s because the heroic things that you (first responders) all do every day become ordinary, and that is the coolest part about being part of the fire or the police or the emergency response system in any capacity. It’s that heroism is not a one-time event.”
But Brand’s medal citation may say it best about what it means to honor him for stepping up that day.
“On this day, Officer Brand provided exceptional support to two patrons of Fort McCoy (local community) by rescuing them from a burning vehicle,” the citation states. “His broad experience and subject-matter expertise enabled him to save lives without any regard for his personal well-being. Officer Brand’s dedication and commitment to duty reflect great credit upon him, the Installation Management Command, and the United States Army.”
On his citation, in handwritten words, Messenger added, “You exemplify ‘to protect and serve!’ Amazing and thank you!”
Brand retired from the Army in April 2022. He has previously served as an instructor for Regional Training Site-Maintenance.
PHOTO CAPTION: Police Officer Raymond A. Brand II receives the Department of the Army Civilian Service Commendation Medal for “exceptional service and performance” Nov. 29, 2022, at Fort McCoy, Wis., from Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. Stephen Messenger. On Feb. 27, 2022, Brand responded to a vehicle accident in Sparta at approximately 10:40 a.m. that involved a 67-year-old man and a 67-year-old woman where he helped pull both from a burning vehicle after the accident. (U.S. Army Photo by Scott T. Sturkol, Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office)