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National EMS Memorial Service Keynote Speech

EMS World Publisher Scott Cravens was honored to deliver the keynote speech at the National EMS Memorial Service, June 28, 2014, at the Pikes Peak Center in Colorado Springs, CO. Here is a transcript of his speech.

Thank you all very much for coming here this weekend from all parts of this great country of ours. We give homage to our fallen brothers and sisters who so dutifully and nobly served the profession of emergency medical services; to mourn their deaths, celebrate their lives, and draw strength from each other and from God.

There are no words to adequately express our sorrow for the deep and enduring pain you carry with you. As C.S. Lewis put it, “The death of a beloved is an amputation.” 

So for the families sitting here today, please know that we recognize how painful it must be for you to endure another memorial service. And for that we not only recognize the honorees for their sacrifice, but we also recognize you for your courage and strength of heart.

Your own selflessness was tested time and again in the wee hours of the night, over the holidays, on weekends, during rewarmed dinners and sitting alone at children’s events. You, too, were subject to the needs of the community, and we appreciate your commitment.

EMS is not a profession of wealth and fame. I remember the first check I brought home as an EMT to show my wife. Her comment was, “That’s all they pay you for a day of medical service?” And I replied, “No, that’s what they pay me for four days of medical service.”

But your loved one is a member of a noble and honored profession nonetheless.

Several years ago EMS World conducted a survey to find out why people entered into EMS in the first place, and the vast majority of answers came back around similar themes: “I wanted to make a difference.” “I wanted to help people.” “I wanted to serve my community.”

In Matthew 23:11 Jesus tells us that, “The greatest among you will be your servant.” And that was your loved ones’ mission.

That’s noble. That’s honorable.

EMS providers turn people’s fear into hope and alter the outcomes of the worst days of their lives. When your loved one arrived on scene, nothing was more urgent for the patient or their family than to converse with them. And that desire transcended all other priorities in their lives at that moment.

Few other jobs offer anything so profound on a daily basis. In the book of James we read, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Certainly it’s hard to keep from being polluted by the world these days, but the people we serve are regularly the most vulnerable segment of society, or they are in a vulnerable situation that offers them little other choice but to cry out to a stranger.

Your loved one was a servant to all regardless of race, creed, color or status. They were the champions of the homeless, the rejected and the uninsured.

That’s noble. That’s honorable.

Dr. Ben Carson states, “When I treat other people with kindness and love, it is part of my way of paying my debt to God and the world for the privilege of living on this planet… Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.”

The parable of the Good Samaritan begins with a religious expert testing Jesus by asking, “What must I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus retorts, “What is written in the law?” To which the man replies, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.” And, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Right!” Jesus responds. ”Do this, and you will live.”

However, the expert seeks clarification: “Who is my neighbor?” And from there Jesus launches into the familiar illustration: 

A traveling man is attacked by bandits who strip him of clothes and money, beat him up and leave him for dead. By chance two of his fellow countrymen come along after him, but each crosses to the other side of the road in order to avoid him.

Then a Samaritan, despised by those countrymen, comes along and feels deep pity. Kneeling beside the traveler, the Samaritan soothes his wounds with medicine and bandages them. Then he puts the man on his own donkey and takes him to an inn, where he continues to care for him. 

The parable then concludes with Jesus asking the expert, “Now, which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?”

The expert replies, “The one who showed him mercy.” So Jesus tells him and everyone else, “Yes. Now go and do the same.” 

From that passage we today call people “Good Samaritans” when they don’t pass by people in peril and need. They show their compassion with action. And across the United States, EMS professionals are those Good Samaritans.

That’s noble. That’s honorable.

But as we recognize today, the struggle to save lives is not without sacrifice. God uses good people to do great things, and these 24 honored fallen made a difference—one patient at a time.

They symbolize all that is good in humanity, but without a spotlight.

This year we nationally recognize and honor the 24 individuals who took upon themselves to live lives dedicated to empathizing and caring for the human condition of pain and suffering—even though it meant putting their own lives at risk. We wish they were not a part of this noble fraternity, but it is ordained that good men and women must die.

This does not mean their names or legacies must also perish. We who are left will take over their watch, mindful of their commitment to care for the ordinary man, woman and child.

The sirens may have fallen silent for your loved ones, but their spirit will live on. So I pray that each time you see an ambulance rolling down the street, a medical helicopter flying overhead or a rescue truck en route, that the pain will lessen and you will be blessed knowing that others have taken up their noble and honorable cause.

Thank you, and may God bless you.

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