Marine Sgt. Marcus Santana with members of the executive board of the Eastern Long Island Branch, NAACP, from left, Keisha Washington-Dean, secretary, Elena Rivera-Williams, membership chair and Lawrence Street, president, after they organization presented Santana with a new special recognition award name in his honor Jan. 29, 2020 at Riverhead Free Library. Photo: Denise Civiletti

U.S. Marine Sergeant Marcus Santana, who saved the life of an elderly woman on Nov. 24, was honored for his heroic deed yesterday by the NAACP Eastern Long Island Branch.

Santana is the first recipient of the Sgt. Marcus L. Santana Special Recognition Award — an award named to honor the Marine sergeant that will be presented to other community members for acts of decency and bravery.

Santana, 27, and his mother Susan Miles went to Riverhead Free Library for an award presentation, but they were completely surprised by the creation of an award in Santana’s name.

“I thought I was going to get a piece of paper,” Santana said afterward. “I had no idea. I’m just overwhelmed.”

NAACP Eastern Long Island Branch officers Lawrence Street, president, Elena Rivera-Williams, membership chair and Keisha Washington-Dean, secretary were on hand to present the award to Santana yesterday at Riverhead Free Library. The also presented Santana with a complimentary one-year membership in America’s oldest and largest civil rights organization.

“It is not rare for the community to be in need of heartfelt and equitable assistance for the benefit of individuals as well as the village,” Rivera-Williams said. “It is an honor to present you with this award.”

Street told Santana he knows all the attention for what he did can be overwhelming. Santana was also recently presented with a proclamation by the Riverhead Town Board honoring his lifesaving action.

Marine Sgt. Marcus Santana on Jan. 29, 2021

“You have created a legacy for yourself,” Street told him. “And it’s a good legacy,” he said.

“What we’ve done at the Eastern Long Island Branch of the NAACP, we want to continue your legacy. What I mean by that is, if I grab someone out of a burning building, they’re going to say, ‘Mr. Street, we want to present you with the Sgt. Marcus L. Santana award.’ So your legacy will continue with our branch forever. It will never die, because we have made this award now a part of your legacy and you as well as a part of ours.”

On the morning of Nov. 24, Santana was on his way to work at the Armed Forces recruiting office on East Main Street, when he stopped to let an elderly woman cross Flanders Road. She stumbled and fell face down in the roadway. Santana stopped his truck, blocking traffic, jumped out and went to her aid. He couldn’t find a pulse, he said, and he began administering CPR he learned as a Marine, clearing her airway and performing chest compressions. He kept it up until EMTs arrived.

See story: Marine sergeant saves a life on his way to the recruiting office

The woman survived and was home with her family for the holidays. Santana says he “pops in” to see her from time to time.

The 2012 Riverhead High School graduate, a tall, strapping five-year Marine veteran who has deployed to the Middle East, grows emotional when he thinks about the woman he saved — and imagines his own grandmother in that situation.

“I would hope if that were my grandmother, someone would be there to stop and help her,” he said.

Santana’s mother said she could not be more proud of her son.
She was also surprised by the award named in his honor, wiping away tears as the award was announced — but she was not surprised by his quick-thinking and action on that November morning.

“It’s who he is,” she said.

“I’m just glad I was there,” Santana replied.

Marine Sgt. Marcus Santana, with his mother Susan Miles, left, NAACP Eastern Long Island Branch president Lawrence Street, membership chair Elena Rivera-Williams and secretary Keisha Washington-Dean. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Correction: A photo caption in this story incorrectly listed the given name of Eastern Long Island Branch, NAACP membership chair Elena Rivera-Williams. RiverheadLOCAL regrets the error.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.