U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Joseph Strehl, a police officer in the St. Louis Police Department and operational law paralegal non-commissioned officer in the 11th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, was returning home early on the night of Nov. 9, 2020, after patrolling the streets when a call for a destruction of property was dispatched. Despite not being on duty, Strehl reacted to the call and arrived at the scene.
“I was in the area where it happened by chance,” said Strehl. “There weren’t any other officers nearby, so pretty much said ‘attach me to that call.’”
Strehl arrived at the area of Big Bend and Highway 141 in St. Louis. Standing on the overpass railing was a young man standing on the side of the bridge. Strehl approached the other officers at the scene to clarify the situation, and when he turned back around, the subject had vanished from sight.
“I thought at first that he had already jumped,” explained Strehl. “I was really shocked until I saw him on the other side of the bridge holding onto the railing and threatening to jump.”
Strehl immediately responded and had emergency medical services expedited. While EMS was on the way, Strehl called on his training in crisis intervention and calmed the subject down after a couple minutes of conversation and reassurance.
“After that, he agreed to come down, and he was very emotional and crying,” said Strehl. “I personally transported him since he didn’t want to go with the paramedics, and I checked him into the mental health section of the hospital.”
Strehl’s dedication to duty, along with his training in crisis intervention, helped preserve the life of someone contemplating ending it.
“My dad was a police officer in St. Louis City and was killed in the line of duty when I was three,” explained Strehl. “After graduating college and joining the Army, I pursued a career in law enforcement.”
Both the St. Louis Police Department and Strehl’s leadership in the U.S. Army Reserve has recognized the human compassion and commitment to duty Strehl demonstrated.
“I think a lot of people who get into law enforcement or military service have that dream someday that we get to be called on at that moment to do the right thing and make a difference in somebody’s life,” remarked Capt. Anthony Cacciatore, Strehl’s first-line supervisor and national security law attorney with the 11th ECAB. “Here’s Sergeant Strehl in the early stages of his career, and he’s already had that opportunity and succeeded to such a degree that he was able to save another human being’s life.”
In addition to preventing the individual from committing suicide, Strehl had also maintained communication with him during his recovery from a dark place. Strehl took the time to call the young man and has spoken to the mother, providing further support to the family.
“This is because he cares, and he’s going to take that time, and he’s going to take it seriously,” Cacciatore said. “He wants to create a better community for everyone.”
Strehl could have chosen many other professions, but he is determined to continue helping his community through law enforcement and serving in the Army Reserve.
“It was more than just doing my job,” Strehl explained. “It felt great to help him at that moment when he was in crisis.”
In recognition of his intervention, the St. Louis Police Department recognized Strehl with an Award of Excellence April 6, 2021. The 11th ECAB will formally recognize him for his actions during the upcoming July Battle Assembly by awarding him the Certificate of Appreciation and a unit coin.
“Sergeant Strehl is a police officer and soldier because he wants to make and live that difference,” Cacciatore said. “He’s eager to fight for the right things and make a difference in this world.”