A Postal Service employee from Iowa who braved a house fire to rescue his Postmaster’s mother has received the top hero of the year award from the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC).
“I just feel it’s something anyone would do,” said Sumner, IA, Letter Carrier Austin Rentz, who was recognized Oct. 30 as the National Hero of the Year at the union’s annual luncheon in Washington, DC.
Rentz had initially asked a colleague to notify the local Postmaster after hearing an unfamiliar beeping noise at the woman’s home. But when the sound soon grew louder and he spotted thick black smoke pouring out of the structure, he raced in to guide her to safety.
“I don’t look at myself as a hero,” Rentz said. “This is part of the job.”
The NALC also named three regional heroes: Theresa Jo Belkota of Lewiston, NY, who aided a 10-year-old neighbor hurt by a lawn mower; Michael Musick of Bellflower, CA, who responded to a traffic accident that injured two co-workers; and Mark Schuh of Princeton, IN, who defended a man and his beagle during a dog attack.
The Special Carrier Alert Award was given to Ivan Crisostomo of Sacramento, CA, who leapt into action to protect a teenager who had allegedly been held captive for three months.
Mitchell Rivas of Berea, OH, was designated Humanitarian of the Year for establishing a charity for hospitalized children, Maryssa’s Mission Foundation, in memory of his 2-year-old daughter who died from congenital heart failure in 2015.
“The other honorees and I represent just a small sample of what employees do every day,” Rivas said. “We put the ‘service’ in the Postal Service.”
Belkota encouraged colleagues to help others whenever they can.
“Don’t be afraid to step in and take the initiative,” she said. “Although the situation I faced was daunting, I am a stronger person for it.”