U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bellio sighs as he looks down from the stands at Veterans Memorial Stadium for the first time.
“Wow,” he says, gripping the guardrail in front of him and turning his eyes to the scoreboard. “This is awesome.”
It’s mid-April. Bellio has been a Troy University student since 2010, but he’s never set foot on the Troy Campus until this day.
Bellio, a management and business administration major, was in town for a Phi Kappa Phi honor society initiation, but that’s just the latest of his achievements. In 2016, the USO named him Airman of the Year after his heroic actions saved the life of a woman who had been involved in a traffic accident.
The award recognizes specific acts of heroism from enlisted Airmen.
“In the military, you have a lot of time to reflect, and one of the things that I constantly do is a self-evaluation of how I’m able to give back,” Bellio said. “Being honored by the USO, an organization that is constantly helping others, there are no words to explain it. It’s an award given to me for my contributions to others, and it’s very humbling.”
Bellio was driving when he saw cars pulled over on the side of the road. After stopping to investigate, he saw a car upside down in the nearby river.
Jumping into action, Bellio eventually pulled a woman from the car, in freezing water, then used his training to stabilize her body temperature and treat her for shock.
Despite his heroism, Bellio’s humble nature makes him hesitant to talk about his accolades.
According to an article on the Air Education and Training Command website, Bellio, who is radio frequency instructor for the 338th Training Squadron, declined to be identified by a local news station that interviewed him on the scene of the rescue.
Bellio’s selflessness is matched by his work ethic both in his duties and in class, as evidenced by his induction into Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest multidisciplinary collegiate honor society.
Back in 2010, when Bellio was looking for the right college to suit his needs for flexibility, he quickly realized TROY was the right choice, particularly due to TROY Online.
“I started at the remote campuses and then integrated fully online,” Bellio said. “TROY offered evening campuses, and then I saw that they offered a full online degree plan, and that (aspect) really got me hook, line and sinker.”
Though his academic road hasn’t been easy, Bellio wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s definitely been very challenging in a positive way,” he said. “A lot of my friends go to some of these other schools. If you compare what we learn vs. some of the other schools, it’s definitely a lot more academically challenging. Because of that, I have a lot of tools that I’ll take with me the rest of my life.”
The online college experience proved to be transformative for Bellio.
“It’s been life changing,” he said. “There are many people enrolled in the school, and the one thing that’s awesome is the flexibility that it has. I’ve taken classes in four different countries now. Being able to take classes at my own pace and having the flexibility to do it worldwide, it’s truly life changing. My future career is going to be dependent on my current career along with the education I’m getting.”
His tour of the Troy Campus has only increased his love of the University.
“This campus is huge,” he said. “All the critical areas to make sure that you’re not worrying about anything other than academics — your food and housing situations are unbelievable. That’s awesome. It allows students to focus only on their academics.”