Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
On December 10 in Sacramento, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger honors Tracy Armstead, District 7 Maintenance, Special Crews, as a recipient of the 2009 Governor’s Medal of Valor award for his courage and heroic act to save a life.

District 7 Employee Receives Medal of Valor for Heroic Act
by  Maria Raptis
Issue Date: 01/2010

Tracy Armstead Receives the Governor’s Gold Medal of Valor Award

In a public ceremony on December 10 in Sacramento, Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar awarded the ‘Governor's Medal of Valor Awards’ to 27 state employees whose extraordinary acts of bravery and heroism saved human lives or state property during the past fiscal year.

Caltrans District 7 congratulates all recipients, but is particularly proud of one Gold Medal of Valor recipient, Tracy Eugene Armstead, a structural steel painter, who on September 8, 2008, attempted to rescue a man from drowning.

As Armstead prepared to paint a bridge deck 25 feet above the Dominguez Channel in the Long Beach harbor, his coworkers alerted him to a man who had darted down the embankment and jumped into the channel. While the crew called 911 for help, Armstead immediately jumped in after the man, swimming against a rapid, downstream current. Repeatedly, he reached for the jumper, but the man drifted farther away. Nearing exhaustion, Armstead had to abandon his efforts or risk drowning himself. Paramedics arrived shortly thereafter, retrieved the man, and attempted to revive him. He did not survive.

“The State of California is proud of the actions of Caltrans employee Tracy Armstead for his extraordinary act of kindness and for his service above and beyond the call of duty,” said Richard Land, District 7 Interim Director. “Armstead is a very caring, vigilant, and brave individual. He is a deserving recipient of the Governor’s Medal of Valor.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the highest honor that the State of California bestows on its civil servants. Over 400 medals have been awarded to state employees since the program began in 1959. Joining Armstead this year are 26 other state employees from Caltrans, CAL FIRE, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California Highway Patrol (CHP), California Military Department, California State Parks, Department of Community Services and Development, and the Department of Mental Health.

There are two types of honorary Medal of Valor Awards given to state employees: gold and silver. The Silver Medal is awarded for a special service or an act of heroism extending above and beyond the normal call of duty or risk to his or her safety to save human life or State property. The Gold Medal is awarded for a special or extraordinary act of heroism extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty or service, performed at great risk to his or her own life in an effort to save human life. Both awards consist of a certificate, citation, medal and lapel pin.

The other Caltrans recipients were Brandon S. Akers, of Caltrans District 5 (San Luis Obispo), and Dale William White Jr., of District 6 (Bakersfield). Akers received the Silver Award for his actions on June 18, 2009, when he assisted a motorist under medical distress and set up a traffic block to prevent further accidents and injuries. White received the Gold Award when he pushed two individuals out of the path of a reckless motorist on December 18, 2008.

Following the award presentation, it’s customary for all Medal of Valor recipients to join the Governor at the State Capitol tree lighting ceremony, and for that reason, the tree is called the "Tree of Heroes.”

“I played action heroes in movies, but these are true action heroes,” said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in a statement released about the Medal of Valor awards. “There's a big difference; their stories are factual. I want to thank them for their great work and courage.”

Armstead gave credit to his coworkers George Bedolla, John Reid, Ray Guidry, and their supervisor, Joe Perez, for playing a part in the attempt to save the life of a citizen. “I am very proud of the conduct of my fellow workers in the team effort to help this man,” said Armstead. “They all played a part to save his life.”

Real heroes, like Armstead, don't flaunt their heroic actions; they quietly go about doing what they do best. Often, they are the ones you'd least suspect, but would most like to have on your side.

Armstead (center) receives a hero’s welcome and congratulations from District 7 Executive Staff in Los Angeles.  From left:  Dan Freeman, Deputy Director of Maintenance; Rick Land, Interim District Director; Raja Mitwasi, Chief Deputy Director; and Deborah Robertson, Deputy Director of External Affairs. The Governor’s Gold Medal of Valor Armstead (center) at the award ceremony in Sacramento with fellow Caltrans recipients (on left) Brandon S. Akers, (District 5 -San Luis Obispo), and (on right) Dale William White Jr., (District 6 Bakersfield).  The Armstead Family supporters: Tracy Armstead, surrounded by daughters (from left) Tierra, Mya, Tiffany, and brother Gary Armstead.