Sometimes all it takes to be a hero is to be in the right place at the right time. However, there are arguably certain qualities that a person must have to choose to do the right thing at that exact moment.
Earl Melchert is a person with those qualities, and more.
“I thought at first it was a deer.”
On the night of September 5th, Earl Melchert was on his way to grab a can of diesel gas for his lawnmower. He wanted to mow his lawn, but he forgot to pick it up on his way home from the fertilizer plant where he worked in western Minnesota.
As he got in his car to head back to the plant, however, he caught sight of something odd running through his field in Elbow Lake, MN.
“I thought at first it was a deer,” the 65-year-old Melchert said according to the New York Times.
It was not a deer—what Melchert saw was a traumatized teen running through his field.
As he got closer, he realized that it was a frightened teenage girl.
“I could make out her face, and I went, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the gal from Alexandria that’s been gone for 29 days,’” Melchert said according to the New York Times.
It was the face of 15-year-old Jasmine Block, who had disappeared on August 8th. Jasmine had escaped the clutches of three men, who had held her captive in an abandoned house nearby.
After her daring escape, she rushed to find help at nearby homes. But she received no answer at any of the doors she pounded on. So, she was forced to swim across the lake to Melchert’s property to seek help.
The young girl, Jasmine Block, had been held in captivity for 29 days—until she made her daring escape.
Melchert stopped his car and approached the young girl. She told him she needed help and that she had been kidnapped.
One of the men had, according to the New York Times, tricked her into helping him with a “family emergency.” The man, 32-year-old Thomas Barker, was a family associate, so she agreed to go with him in his car. But when they arrived at the destination, they were greeted by two other men Jasmine did not know. They immediately restrained her, and for the next 29 days sexually and physically assaulted her.
They moved her to two separate locations before leaving her in the abandoned house near Melchert’s home to get some food.
That was when the young, traumatized teen managed to escape her captivity and seek help. Hours later she fortunately met Melchert.
Melchert comforted the teen until police arrived. He was hailed as a hero, but that was not all.
Melchert comforted the traumatized teen after he called the police. The three men were then promptly identified from Jasmine’s description and arrested. The chief of police praised the girl’s bravery, but hailed Melchert as a hero.
But there was more. For finding Jasmine, Melchert was presented with a $7,000 reward: $2,000 of which was provided by Jasmine’s family, and $5,000 from a private donor.
Although it was a significant amount of money to Melchert, he knew exactly what he would do with it— hand it over to the person who needed it most—Jasmine.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” Melchert said according to the New York Times.
Melchert knew exactly what to do with the reward—give it to the victim.
He said giving the $7,000 to Jasmine and her family felt like the right thing to do.
“The family needs the money,” Melchert said according to the New York Times. “To me, that’s a lot of money, but they need it way worse than I do.”
And for Melchert, who retired last month, it was the best send-off he could have ever asked for.
“What a retirement present,” Melchert said according to the New York Times. “To hand over some money to people that really need it.”