ALBANY, GA (WALB) - WALB and Montlick and Associates would like to recognize the Heroes Among Us.
Each month, we will spotlight an active duty man or woman, a veteran, or a fallen hero whose service to our country goes beyond the battleground.
When the January 2017 storms happened, Daniel Potter spent days traveling back and forth from Fort Benning, equipped with his chainsaw, to help with recovery.
Now, after Hurricane Michael, his dedication has overwhelmed the community once again.
"I had a neighbor that used to serve in the Army when I was a little kid," Potter explained. "He used to tell me his stories."
Those stories sparked a dream in a young boy.
“I decided when I was 11 that I wanted to pay him back for what he did,” said Potter.
Fast forward several decades, and Potter will soon wrap up 20 years of service in the U.S. Army. That included a combat tour in Iraq.
Now stationed at Fort Benning, his definition of service took a turn in January 2017.
"I didn't even own a chainsaw before that first storm hit," he said.
After damaging straight-line winds and tornadoes, Potter said he felt compelled to hit the road, headed toward the Good Life City.
“I took 30 days of leave from work and stayed down here in this area and just cut trees every single day, from daylight til dark,” Potter said.
But, his service didn't end there.
A year and nine months later, all of Southwest Georgia stared down the barrel of a category 3 hurricane.
On October 10, 2018, Michael hit Albany as a category 2.
In the aftermath, Potter didn't hesitate.
"To look at it now, you wouldn't think that anything was that bad in this area," Potter explained as he surveyed an apartment complex where he volunteered to help clear debris.
He once again started making 200 mile round trip drives to help in the face of devastation. He even helped rescue people that he didn’t know had been trapped by trees for days.
“Neither one of them had been out of their house since the storm hit,” Potter said of two residents in that complex off Westover Boulevard. “She didn’t have anybody she could call to cut them out. I didn’t even know there was anybody here until I started cutting and she came out the door.”
However, his service came at a cost.
Though he was well-trained on the equipment, the strenuous work took its toll.
“This lady’s house that’s back here put me down in the bed for two days,” Potter explained. “I couldn’t walk because I have a bad back.”
Potter put his health and safety on the line.
He did recover though, and continued his volunteer work, even tapping his children to help out.
"He cuts the tree and stuff or whatever, and I get it and move it, so they can be to safety," said Tony Potter, 11.
Potter's sons get out and work, too. They are well-received by those they help.
"They know my dad's teaching us right," said Tony.
Daniel says he has tarped at least 50 houses since Hurricane Michael hit, and cut hundreds more trees.
When asked why, he gave a simple answer.
"There's so many people, especially elderly, that live down here that don't have anybody to do it. If I don't do it, it's going to sit there undone."
Potter's service beyond the battleground is much appreciated around Albany.
“[I] get a lot of hugs after helping people,” he explained.
Potter said following his 20 years in the Army, he plans to do 10 more years of federal service, then "live easy."
For now, he said he'll continue putting in the work to help Southwest Georgians bounce back.
“As long as I can afford it and my body will let me do it,” said Potter.
Potter's son Tony, the same age Daniel was when he decided he wanted to join the military, said he's also considering joining the military.
If you would like to nominate your military hero to be featured on ‘Heroes Among Us’ on WALB ABC, click here.