Author: Valerie Palmeri
While there are memorials and organizations that recognize fallen law enforcement and firefighters, there was a gap in EMS providers being recognized for their valiant efforts throughout their career. In 1991, the Virginia Association of Volunteer Rescue Squads (VAVRS) set out to correct this by recognizing EMS providers who fell in the line of duty. Their mission was to honor those individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their community and peers.
The Virginia Association of Rescue Squads (VAVRS) established a committee, the National EMS Memorial Service Committee. Roanoke, Virgina was chosen as the memorial location for it was the home of Julian Stanley Wise, the founder of the first volunteer rescue squad in the United States. The board of directors for the organization changed over the years, it began as volunteer Virginians to a mix of volunteer and career service members all over the United States. In 1998, Congressed passed resolutions and established that Roanoke, Virginia as the official National EMS Memorial of the United States.
The memorial in Virginia is called the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life represents an oak tree to symbolize strength. Every fallen EMS provider name, agency and date of loss is engraved onto a leaf to be added to the tree.
Over the years the location of the memorial and services have changed, but since 2016 the memorial is held in Arlington, Virginia and will remain in the greater Washington D.C area, to strengthen the effort led by the foundation.
Every July the “National EMS Weekend of Honor” is held in Virgina. To view this past years’ service, which includes honoree biographies please click here. During the weekend of honor multiple different events are held, such as the “Line of Duty Death Seminar” where they discuss where to draw the line between active duty and line of duty. Additionally, there is the EMS Memorial Bike Ride participants can attend. To learn more about the EMS Memorial Service, click here!