Snowy country road with car on fire with visable tracks from where it slid off road, and female Soldier in uniform super-imposed holding award.

Courtesy photos/Ohio National Guard photo illustration

Ohio Military Reserve 1st Lt. Heidi Peterson, a nurse assigned to 6th Medical Detachment, stands with the Citizen’s Cross award after being recognized for saving a man from a burning car in November 2021 near Mount Vernon, Ohio. Peterson received the award from the Mount Vernon Fire Department at a Mount Vernon City Council meeting in January. The image of the burning car was taken after the victim was pulled to safety.

OHMR member’s nursing skills, quick actions save life

Story by Staff Sgt. Aven Santiago, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio (04/27/22)

What started as a normal drive home from her monthly training drill last fall turned into a lifesaving scenario for one Ohio Military Reserve member. First Lt. (Ohio) Heidi Peterson, a trained nurse, pulled and rescued a victim from a burning car on Nov. 14, 2021, on state Route 229, west of Mount Vernon.

“I’ve always believed in defaulting to action,” Peterson said. “I could not stand by and do nothing when a human life was at stake.”

While driving home from drill on that Sunday night, Peterson saw a car flipped and burning with someone inside yelling for help. After pulling over, she jumped into action to save the man trapped inside. Peterson yelled at two bystanders to call 911 while she attempted to rescue the man. As she worked to rescue the man trapped inside the burning car, another bystander held the door open while she pulled the victim out of the flames. After dragging the man away from the vehicle and eventually to safety, Peterson then applied first aid to the victim’s external injuries and kept the victim awake before emergency responders arrived.

“I never gave it a second thought,” Peterson said. “I hope that other people understand that it is OK to help; it’s OK to do something.”

“I never gave it a second thought,” Peterson said. “I hope that other people understand that it is OK to help; it’s OK to do something.”

Peterson was honored by the Mount Vernon Fire Department for her actions. Fire Chief Chad Christopher presented Peterson with the Citizen’s Cross at a Mount Vernon City Council meeting in January. The honor is given to members of the public not associated with the fire service, who distinguish themselves by performing acts or duties in a manner above that normally required or expected, and that set them apart from their peers.

“With great bravery and urgency, (Peterson) and an unknown male pulled the driver from the vehicle and moved him to safety,” Christopher said of Peterson. “(Peterson) also assisted in administering first aid to the injured driver … (the) quick action to remove the driver from the vehicle was not only brave and heroic, but it was lifesaving.”

In addition to her duties within the OHMR, Peterson holds a master’s degree in nursing, is a registered nurse, and a board-certified National Healthcare Disaster Professional. With these credentials, Peterson was interested in joining traditional military branches, however she was unable to meet the age requirements. Still wanting to serve her fellow Ohioans, Peterson found a home in the 6th Medical Detachment, OHMR, and served during the state’s COVID-19 response mission.

The OHMR is one of three branches under the State Defense Force, along with the Ohio Cyber Reserve and Ohio Naval Militia. The OHMR serves under the governor and is a component of the Ohio Adjutant General’s Department. When called, they help support Ohio communities in roles including disaster relief and medical support.

“(The) OHMR isn’t super well known, and the thing I think is really amazing about OHMR is it will allow people to serve who could not serve in another capacity or have previously served (in the military), who still want to do something,” Peterson said. “We have a lot of knowledge and really amazing people, and I would like to see that grow.”


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