A generous gesture by Doris Postelle couldn’t have come at a better time for Nellis Air Force Base Maj. Paul Hamel.
With Hamel’s son recovering from critical injuries last week after a motorist ran a red light and slammed into his son’s car, the major was in Ted Wiens Tire and Auto on Craig Road getting new tires for his own car when Postelle, out of the blue, offered to pay $200 of his bill.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said, not knowing at the time about the setback of Hamel, deputy flight commander for critical care at the Nellis medical center. “They really support the military out here and the stuff they do for us is for our freedom.”
With his son, Brett, 20, expected to fully recover despite multiple broken bones and lacerations, Hamel decided it was time to return a favor and recognize Postelle for her patriotic kindness.
“We’re really blessed that he’s alive,” said Hamel, 42. “It was a lot of stress last week (but) there’s a lot of good people out there. It brightened up our week.”
On Thursday they met back at the tire shop. He gave her a flower bouquet. And Steve Vallejo, the tire shop employee who handled what he described as a “rare” transaction, gave Postelle another hug.
“I didn’t even know what she was going to do,” Vallejo said. “She came up and offered to pay $200 on his bill. I gave her a big ol’ hug, and told her ‘thank you.’”
Hamel confirmed that Postelle was a stranger.
“I’ve never seen this lady ever,” he said. “Basically I was up there discussing my bill with Steve. She came up to me and it took me off guard because I didn’t understand her at first. Then she asked to see my bill. I was hesitant to accept but she was very insistent.”
Postelle, 63, has always had respect for folks in uniform. She wore one herself when she worked as a jailer for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Her father was in the Army in World War II, and her brother served in the Navy during the Vietnam era.
After she moved to the Las Vegas Valley a few years ago, she had her mind set on showing her appreciation for U.S. military men and women.
“Every time you see military people, or you see something on the news, or you go to the air show, you want to do something but you don’t know what,” she said.
While helping other volunteers send care packages to troops overseas is a grateful gesture as well, Postelle said she wanted to express her gratitude personally.
“I wanted to do something that was immediate and go directly to the individual,” she said. “He just happened to be there. Everything else was going good for me at Ted Wiens. So I asked him. I wish I could pay for the whole bill.”
Her motivation was simple: “Hey, I want to help the military. They get the short end of the stick all the way around. And it’s a shame. I figured it was the least I could do.”
When she learned about the terrible accident and Hamel’s devotion to help his son cope with his injuries, Postelle was even more convinced she had done the right thing.
“My heart went out to him,” she said. “I was glad I could do something that would help soften his expenses and his stress. Everything happened for a reason and the timing was right.”
Contact reporter Keith Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0308. Follow him on Twitter @KeithRogers2.