By Tammy Chatman
Arlington, VA (August 24, 2021) – The National EMS Memorial Service (NEMSMS), National EMS Memorial Bike Ride (NEMSMBR) and the National EMS Memorial Foundation (NEMSMF) paid tribute to the 144 fallen EMS and air medical providers from 39 different states during the 2021 National EMS Weekend of Honor, from July 23-25 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, VA.
In 2020, the Weekend of Honor was held virtually due to the pandemic so 2021 honored the combined years 2019-20. The increased number of honorees, plus the addition of 72 not yet recognized historical honorees, posed transport challenges for the temporary memorial called the Tree of Life because of its size and weight. It had been built in Texas by Tom and Jenn Liebman from Global Medical Response (GMR) at their home near Dallas and had to be in Arlington, VA by July 23. Thankfully Weekend of Honor legacy sponsor Global Medical Response stepped in and donated an ambulance and team for the nearly 2,000-mile trek, named the Moving Honors, across six states. It was packaged and secured inside the specially wrapped ambulance until its arrival in Arlington to start off the Weekend of Honor. A replica was created and available for viewing at stops along the way where a short ceremony was held each time with a reading of the honoree names.
To bring additional attention to the Moving Honors and show support for the honoree children, one of the special teddy bears given out at the Weekend of Honor, accompanied the Moving Honors procession. The bear, aptly named Chief Ted E. Bear, was deputized by the Texas Highway Patrol to escort the procession. His experiences, captured in photos and video, were shared on the NEMSMS Facebook page to further connect with those who visited the Moving Honors as well as to illustrate to the honoree children and their families how much their loved ones meant to those he met along the way.
On Friday, July 23, 75 participants in the special Ride of Honor hosted by the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride, arrived at Hyatt escorting the Moving Honors to kick off the National Weekend of Honor. The NEMSMBR celebrated the lives of EMS and air medical providers who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service to others. Riders were predominantly EMS professionals from across the U.S. Each of the riders carried dog tags bearing an honoree’s name, agency and date of their loss.
After arriving at the hotel, a short ceremony was held where NEMSMBR president Brian Shaw shared his thoughts, “Participants of The National EMS Memorial Bike ride hope that coming together with the families, co-workers and friends of the honorees not only provides them some closure but shows all that we will never forget those that have lost their lives performing their duties in EMS.” Following the ceremony, the riders met with the families to present one of their two dog tags worn during the ride – an emotionally powerful part of the Weekend of Honor. The riders will keep the remaining dog tag as a lifetime reminder of the honoree’s sacrifice.
The following day, the National EMS Memorial Service, a formal ceremony to honor the EMS professionals and air medical providers who died in the line of duty in 2019-2020 as well as the historical honorees was held at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City ballroom. The Service was attended by approximately 600 EMS personnel from across the country who traveled at their own expense to participate in the NEMSMS, along with families, friends, co-workers of current and past honorees, dignitaries, EMS and business leaders, and government officials. There were approximately 50 honor guard personnel along with pipe and drum corps who volunteered their time and services throughout the weekend.
The temporary National EMS Memorial “Tree of Life” was displayed through the Service on Saturday. It holds bronze oak leaves, engraved with the names of fallen honorees for each year going back as far as 1895. In November 2018, Public Law 15-275 was signed into law by the President to enable the National EMS Memorial Foundation (NEMSMF) to build a permanent EMS memorial in the nation’s capital. They are currently in the Federal approval process to finalize the memorial site and development will then quickly follow.
In reflecting back on the Weekend of Honor, NEMSMS president Jana Williams shared “On behalf of the board, I want to thank the hundreds of volunteers who made the National EMS Service, the Weekend of Honor, and new this year, the Moving Honors tribute possible. All provided fitting homage to our fallen and meaningful impacts for those they left behind. We are grateful to the countless organizations and individuals who made it all possible. The most humbling but powerful feedback from many family members reiterated that these experiences had a profoundly positive effect towards their healing. Many EMS colleagues shared that the experiences were restorative for them as well. I remain in awe of what transpired that weekend.”
The Weekend of Honor is organized and hosted by the following volunteer-staffed organizations: National EMS Memorial Bike Ride, National EMS Memorial Service, and the National EMS Memorial Foundation. The organizations would like to thank the many volunteers, participants, donors and sponsors who once again helped make this year’s National Weekend of Honor a special remembrance celebration of those who have given so much in the service to others.
Media inquiries and interview requests, contact:
Tammy Chatman, Public Affairs Officer