‘You are our hero every single day’: Iowa high school surprises custodian

Iowa News

GRIMES, IOWA — It was an ordinary day at work for Joel Eiteman at Dallas Center Grimes High School on Tuesday morning until he looked outside and saw all the firetrucks. The volunteer Perry firefighter knew it wasn’t an emergency. He quickly learned it was a celebration, a celebration of him.

In December, Eiteman and four fellow firefighters were awarded the Sullivan Brothers Medal for their heroism in saving a man from from a burning building last April. His heroism was marked again on Tuesday by full-time employer, DCG Schools. Eiteman was surprised by a pop-up celebration outside the high school, featuring a parade of firetrucks and most of the student body.

“Everyday you come to work early on. You are a role model to all of our students and staff for what it means to be a servant leader,” said principal Scott Blum in a speech honoring Eiteman amid a crowd of teens, “You were a hero on April 20th, but please never forget that you are our hero every single day as well.”

On April 20, 2020, Eiteman and the Perry Fire Department were dispatched to a home engulfed in flames. Firefighters found a burning vehicle fueling the flames into the home. Joel Eiteman lead the attack, knocking down flames with with hose while searching for the homeowner.

“By the time I got into the kitchen, I found him lying on the floor,” Eiteman recalled of finding the unconscious homeowner.

“He was still breathing. I handed my hose off to my backup. I told him: ‘Protect us’ and I stayed with (the homeowner) to protect him.”

Eiteman, along with his brother, Brian, and firefighers Israel Baltazar, Bobby Harlan and Andy Moldin, worked as a team to keep the flames back while they pulled the homeowner out, saving his life.

Eiteman is preparing for a big moment in his life. He and his fiancee, Tonya Marvin, are getting married in less than two weeks. Marvin says Joel would do anything for anyone, something he proved on April 20, 2020.

“I’m very proud of him,” Marvin said, “It’s scary, knowing he did something like that, but very proud of him.”

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