Sanford was active in the Navy from 1956-1958, serving on USS Vigil, and was in the Naval Reserve from 1958-1962. He then went on to have a 29-year career with the FDNY, after which he retired and moved to Naples, Fla. However, the retirement was short-lived, and he began working for the North Naples Fire Control and Rescue District, where he came across an early 1900s antique leather fire helmet that originated from a firehouse in the Bronx. Sanford coordinated a presentation ceremony, scheduled for Sept. 10, 2001, to return the historic keepsake to Ladder 42. Unfortunately, many of the firefighters who attended tragically died the next day.
With the city in ruins and the fire department in disarray after losing 343 brave men, Sanford volunteered to serve the FDNY in one of his former roles as press secretary, and got to work on the grim tasks of planning and attending funerals for his friends and brothers while also trying to organize the chaos. In addition to his book, Sanford honored those who died by helping to establish the Freedom Memorial in Naples. He is also the president of Gulf Coast Veterans and Friends and volunteers with a variety of local veterans’ groups.