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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, Virginia.
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.