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Editors' Expressions: Memorial Day Musings

"Editors' Expressions" is a recurring feature in which the EMS World editorial staff ruminates on current news, noteworthy events and everyday happenings with relevance to healthcare and EMS delivery. Feel free to react in the comment box below or e-mail

As Memorial Day dawns in our parallel universe—one that was never stricken with the COVID-19 outbreak—my family and I are loading the car and making our way to Thornbury Park in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, to pay tribute to our nation’s service members who have paid the ultimate price in defense of our freedom.

There my older son will participate in a solemn flag-raising ceremony with his Boy Scout troop (I have two boys in Scouting) while local politicians, veterans, families and a few dozen onlookers bedecked in patriotic colors will be watching and fanning themselves in somber silence under a white awning in the sunshine.

Following an opening prayer and greeting, and a brief address by a local politician or two, elderly veterans will regale the small gathering with their astounding and unforgettable personal histories of sacrifice, service, and most touching of all, their brothers and sisters in arms who did not make it back home. Sniffles will be heard as those gathered dab their eyes with tissues. The speakers will choke up as they try their best to do justice to their fallen comrades, and what Memorial Day means to them.

A bagpiper in full uniform will wrap up the proceedings by playing Amazing Grace while walking off into the distance, and chills will shoot down my spine. It’s inevitable—it gets me every time.

When my children were younger these community events were powerful teaching moments to stress the personal sacrifices of our nation’s defenders, and more generally, of first responders and all those who place themselves in harm’s way to protect others. I hope they got it—at least a little. Television and online news sources do the best they can to relay uplifting stories of community service and human compassion during these times, and what Memorial Day means and should mean. But it’s the face-to-face interactions during speeches, parades and ceremonies—the tone of voice, the look and feel of the uniform, the personal contact—that deeply resonates and helps one understand what drives a person into military service.

Unfortunately, those are going to be missed this Memorial Day.

The ties between the military and emergency medical services are deep and strong, and are connected by a relentless drive for volunteerism and a desire help one’s fellow men and women. We know from our subscriber profiles and from feature stories that we publish that so many of you are reservists, members of guard units and auxiliaries, and active and retired military. Whether you’re pulling a shift or lucky enough to spend today with those closest to you, we thank you.

On last week’s webinar, Dr. Blair Bigham reassured us that there will be backyard barbecues again. There will be pool parties and parades. But not quite yet. And when they do return, they will feel even more special, and meaningful, than before.

Jonathan Bassett, MA, NREMT, is editorial director of EMS World. Reach him at

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