WASHINGTON — In February, construction worker Robin De Haven was on his way to work on an Austin freeway when he saw smoke billowing out of an office building.
The 28-year-old Iraq War veteran got off at the next exit to see if he could help people trapped in the Internal Revenue Service building, which was on fire after Joe Stack, who in his rambling suicide note blamed the government, the IRS and accountants for his business problems, deliberately crashed his plane into it.
Grabbing ladders from the back of his truck, De Haven saved six people trapped on the second floor of the building. The smoke was choking him, he said, but all he could think was to get the people out the window.
And for his selfless, quick-thinking actions, De Haven is getting a hero's welcome in Washington. Tuesday morning, he was recognized at the Helmets to Hardhats program at the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department's legislative conference at a Washington hotel. De Haven is a graduate of the program, which trains soldiers for positions in the construction trades.
And Tuesday night, De Haven, a glass worker, received a trophy from his union, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.
"The union makes sure the soldiers are not forgotten and they have support to find jobs," De Haven said. The award is being given for the first time.
For him, the award is another "first" in a series of experiences since that day in February. After appearing on national TV after the fiery plane crash, De Haven is in Washington for the first time and will meet his congressman, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, on Wednesday. He'll be asking Doggett to extend grants for the Helmets to Hardhats program. A small town person, "this is a crash course in politics for me," De Haven said.
And over the weekend, De Haven served as honorary crew chief for NASCAR driver Kevin Conway at the Samsung Mobile 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
The Helmets to Hardhats program started in 2003 to help military veterans find jobs in construction sector after retiring from active duty, by advising on their resumes and interviews. It also trains the members in 15 trades, including bricklaying, roofing and glass blowing.