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Association Update: Memorial Groups Salute the Fallen on EMS Weekend of Honor

The National EMS Memorial Service, National EMS Memorial Foundation, and National EMS Memorial Bike Ride paid tribute to fallen EMS and air-medical providers from throughout the United States during the 2019 National EMS Weekend of Honor May 17–19 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Md. 

There were many activities and events during the three-day weekend, two of which the public and media were invited to attend in support of the service and sacrifice of the 2019 honorees. 

On Friday, May 17, nearly 200 participants in the East Coast and Southern routes of the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride (NEMSMBR) arrived at the Plaza at National Harbor to kick off the National Weekend of Honor. The NEMSMBR celebrated the lives of 75 of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as EMS personnel who died of natural or non-employment-related causes. Riders were predominantly EMS professionals from across the U.S. and Canada. Each of the riders carried dual dog tags bearing an honoree’s name, agency, and date of their loss. 

After arriving at the Plaza, the riders each presented one of their dog tags to a waiting family following a short ceremony—an emotionally powerful part of the Weekend of Honor. The rider keeps 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 26 EMS professionals who died in the line of duty in 2018, was held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Hundreds of EMS personnel from across the country traveled at their own expense to attend the service and participate in the NEMSMS, along with families, friends, coworkers of current and past honorees, dignitaries, EMS and business leaders, and government officials. There were approximately 100 honor guard personnel along with bagpipe and drum corps members who volunteered their time and services throughout the weekend. 

The National EMS Memorial “Tree of Life” was displayed through the service on Saturday. The Tree of Life holds bronze oak leaves engraved with the names of fallen honorees for each year since 1993. In November 2018 President Trump signed Public Law 15-275, enabling the National EMS Memorial Foundation (NEMSMF) to build a permanent EMS memorial in the nation’s capital. This will be done once the NEMSMF achieves its fundraising goal for construction. 

“I am amazed at the heart and selflessness of the hundreds of volunteers and organizations that make the events possible, and truly hope and believe the efforts pay tribute to our fallen EMS professionals while bringing comfort and healing to their families,” noted NEMSMS President Jana Williams. “We are humbled to carry out this noble mission.”

The Weekend of Honor is organized and hosted by the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride, National EMS Memorial, and National EMS Memorial Foundation—all volunteer-staffed organizations. 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 of those who have given so much. 

Tammy Chatman is public affairs officer for the National EMS Memorial Service. Reach her at tammy.chatman@national-ems-memorial.org. 

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