by Stacie Shain
Warrior Transition Battalion Public Affairs Officer
When Sgt. 1st Class Travion Smith stopped in October 2009 to help a young accident victim, he never thought he would be honored by the Colorado Springs Police Department and its citizens for his actions.
But Sept. 27, Smith and his friend, Air Force Master Sgt. Rodney Reed, each received the Citizen of Distinction Award as part of the Colorado Springs Police Department’s “Medal of Valor” program. Smith is a combat lifesaver and a cadre member in the Warrior Transition Battalion, while Reed works at Peterson Air Force Base’s 21st Space Wing.
The program recognizes some of its finest officers and a member or members of the community who “provide outstanding assistance to the department in preventing a crime, or apprehending criminals, or rendering outstanding service to the Colorado Springs Police Department that would be worthy of department recognition,” according to a press release issued by the department.
This year, KKTV News was given the chance to select the Citizen of Distinction winner, and allowed its viewers to vote on the station’s website. Smith and Reed got 70 percent of the votes.
Smith and Reed received their awards at the 25th annual Medal of Valor luncheon at the Broadmoor Hotel. The citation read: “For their keen observations, decisiveness and actions taken to help an injured traffic accident victim, it is with appreciation and respect that KKTV 11 News awards Master Sgt. Rodney Reed and Sgt. 1st Class Travion Smith as the Citizens of Distinction for 2010.”
Despite the accolades and recognition, Smith said he doesn’t think what he and Reed did was unusual.
“It feels weird,” he said. “I kind of feel uncomfortable getting all the attention.”
The attention began last fall when Smith and Reed stopped to examine an “object” that was on the road. The object was Jeremy Russeau, a victim of a hit-and-run accident.
Moments after Russeau was hit in a crosswalk, Smith and Reed happened to be traveling north on Academy Boulevard.
“Reed saw something on the road, lying next to the curb and yelled for me to stop,” Smith said. “I swerved then pulled about 30 feet in front of (Russeau).”
Russeau had been thrown 25 feet from the crosswalk at Chelton Road and Academy Boulevard, where he was hit. Reed said he had a gut feeling that what he saw in the road was a person.
“I just thought it had the look of a body,” Reed said.
Once Smith saw Russeau, he ran back to his vehicle for his first aid kit and asked Reed to call 911. As Smith placed a blanket over Russeau and Reed requested an ambulance, both men flagged down another vehicle and asked him to pull in behind Russeau to block traffic.
“Cars were shooting by us,” Smith said. “I was worried we were going to get hit, so we got a car coming in the southbound lane to turn around and pull up right behind us, turn on his flashers and block the traffic.”
With boundaries marked and traffic diverted around the scene, Smith and Reed then turned their attention fully to monitoring Russeau. While Reed answered questions from the emergency dispatcher, Smith tried to keep Russeau warm and conscious.
“He was shaking, and we were afraid he was going to go into shock,” Smith said. “He was lying on the cold ground, and his body had taken a big hit.”
Police estimate the car was traveling 40-50 mph when it hit Russeau.
Smith said he kept Russeau talking until paramedics arrived.
“I just wanted to keep him awake, and he kept saying, ‘OK, I’m here. I’m still here.'”
But Russeau didn’t remember meeting Smith and Reed, much less talking to them, until they visited him at his home two days after the accident.
“The last thing I remember is bright lights and then nothing until I woke up in the ambulance,” Russeau said. “They told me I was talking, but I don’t remember any of it. They told me what happened when I woke up in the ambulance and was spitting out rocks. I was like, ‘How’d that get in my mouth?’ I didn’t feel any pain until I woke up, and then everything hurt.”
Russeau made a full recovery and now lives with his family in Texas.
According to Command Sgt. Maj. Albert Crews, the Warrior Transition Battalion is proud of both service members for their actions.
“Their performance is no doubt a result of years of training provide by the Armed Forces,” Crews said. “The fact that they became involved reflects on their individual character, which aligns with our Army values. When faced with a moment that required action, they both did the task of what was required. As a battalion, we are extremely proud but not surprised.”
While Russeau and his family were not at the award ceremony, Reed surprised Smith by having his mother, Sharon Caleb, fly to Colorado Springs from Long Beach, Calif., to watch her son receive his award.
“Rodney arranged it all, and I suspected something was up because he was acting funny,” Smith said.
Caleb only found out recently that her son had helped rescue Russeau.
“I didn’t tell her about it until recently,” Smith said. “I didn’t see the need to say anything. I didn’t want to seem like I was bragging.”
Now, Smith is getting used to the attention.
“It’s cool,” he said. “We got to change someone’s life.”