U.S. Postal Service employees are most often recognized in their communities as those that ship and deliver mail on a daily basis, but some have garnered national attention for heroic acts undertaken while on the job.
The National Association of Letter Carriers Heroes of the Year awards, held Oct. 30, honored six of those letter carriers for their actions to help their communities.
“Though their actions differed, the stemmed from the same factors: knowledge of the neighborhoods they serve, dedication to the well-being of the residents of those neighborhoods, awareness of their surroundings, and a willingness to act when necessary, whatever dangers. And that, by the way, is a pretty good summation of what letter carriers are all about. And because they’re out delivering the mail six or seven days a week in every community across the country, they are often the first on the scene, when action is needed,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said at the event.
“We are, of course, immensely proud of what the six heroes being recognized did. But we are equally proud that their actions reflect the attitudes and the actions demonstrated every year by tens of thousands of letter carriers throughout the United States.”
Recipient of the National Hero of the Year Award, Austin Rentz of Waterloo, Indiana, was on his route when he heard a beeping noise in the house of his postmaster’s mother. He called his postmaster, then went up to the house to discover that the beeping had come from a smoke detector and black smoke was billowing out of the house.
Rentz went inside and got the woman safely out of the house, before returning inside to open the windows and vent the smoke.
“I don’t think of myself as a hero; I just did what anyone would do,” said Rentz.
Recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year award and a letter carrier in Cleveland, Ohio, Mitchell Rivas lost his two-year-old daughter, Maryssa, to a serious medical condition after she had spent most of her life in hospitals. During that time, Rivas used the G.I. Bill from his previous Marine service to earn his master’s degree in organizational leadership, which he used to start Maryssa’s Mission Foundation to provide toys and support to families whose children are hospitalized.
“We put the ‘service’ in Postal Service,” said Rivas. “And I have never been so proud of my employer, of my union.”
Carrier Alert Award recipient and Sacramento, California, letter carrier Ivan Crisostomo was out delivering mail when he discovered a 16-year-old girl crying behind a tree. She had been abducted and abused for three months and only just escaped. Crisostomo called the girl’s mother and 911 and stayed with her until authorities came to make sure that her captors did not come back for her.
“We do it with love,” said Crisostomo.
Theresa Jo Belkota
Winner of the Eastern Region Hero award, Theresa Jo Belkota of Buffalo, New York, was at home when she heard her neighbor and cousin calling for help from their yard. Belkota ran outside to find her cousin’s son had been run over by a lawnmower, and she jumped into action to stop the bleeding and apply pressure to the child’s femoral artery before paramedics arrived.
Belkota said that the best thing for her is knowing that the little boy is OK and has continued to grow and succeed since the accident.
Central Region hero Mark Schuh of Evansville, Indiana, was on his route when he saw a man and his beagle being attacked by another aggressive dog. Schuh helped to remove the aggressive dog and used nearly a full can of dog-repellent spray to force the dog to back down until its owner could gain control of it.
Schuh then helped to find the terrified and injured beagle and its injured owner, driving over to find the man’s wife so that he could be taken to the hospital for stitches.
“I’m just happy that I was able to be there for this gentleman on my route and help him,” said Schuh.
Western Region hero Michael Musick of Garden Grove, California, was having lunch with two fellow letter carriers on the curb when he noticed a car swerving toward them.
Musick yelled for his colleagues to watch out and dragged one of them mostly out of the way of the car. He then proceeded to provide medical aid to the other letter carrier, whose leg had been run over by the car, until emergency medical services arrived.
“I wasn’t expecting anything out of this; I was just there taking care of my friends,” Musick said after receiving the award.