MISSOULA – It’s an aspect of law enforcement and public service teamwork most people aren’t aware of.
But now a striking new stamp illustrates the relationship between emergency responders and the U.S. Postal Service, making its national debut in Missoula this week.
A major honor for Missoula and the Smokejumpers Center this week, as it served as the launch point for a bold new declaration to honor America’s first responders.
“We honor them for possessing the training, and knowledge to treat the injured, rescue the endangered and restore safety and order,” said U.S. Chief Postal Inspector Guy Cottrell.
“Well, people have asked us for many years to create a stamp for first responders so it finally came to be. We get 30,000 requests a year for stamps and we do twenty or thirty. So a very big honor to be on a stamp and I’m just happy that I can be a part of this right here in Montana.’
In patriotic colors, the new stamp portrays a firefighter, a police officer and an EMT, rushing to the rescue through a smokey background. The stamp is designed to not only show the individual dedication of each service, but the teamwork.
“And how you have dedicated your lives to the service of others. It’s honor. It’s privilege. And it’s humbling to be here today,” said USFS Northern Legion Regional Forester Leanne Marten.
“This new stamp speaks to how much America values her heroes,” said Montana Attorney General Tim Fox.
“We can’t be everywhere everyday,” Cottrell said. “So we’re the Postal Service, we deliver everywhere. But as law enforcement officers we have to rely on each other. So it’s that partnership with all first responders that helps us, a force multiplier for us. It really helps us expand our capabilities.”
“And then first responders are great resources of intelligence for us. They know the lay of the land. We get a lot of postal inspectors from first responders rank. That’s where they start.”
However, it’s not just major investigations like an anthrax scare or the Unabomber. Frequently Postal Service personnel are the “eyes and ears” that help summon first responders.
“Absolutely. I started as a letter carrier when I started in the Postal Service,” Cottrell said. “So you’re right. We go everywhere, every day so we see a lot of things. We’re not spying on you. But they notice things. So we’ve had a lot of good stories where a carrier noticed someone not collecting their mail. They were able to react in time and rescue someone.”
The new stamp is already being snapped up by collectors, along with other associated merchandise. Cottrell hopes it’s also a visual reminder of the debt we owe to the heroes it portrays.
Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News