Holmes Community College hosted Mississippi’s first statewide memorial service for fallen EMTs, paramedics and other Emergency Medical Services professionals on May 25. The event, held in the McGowan Workforce Training Center on the Ridgeland Campus, recognized 132 emergency medical caregivers in the state who have died due to illness or injury suffered in the line of duty (or in close association to duty) over the past 49 years. The memorial was held in conjunction with National EMS Week which President Gerald Ford authorized in 1974.
Holmes EMS Program Director Mark Galtelli kicked off the service with a welcome.
“As we begin this service, let us be reminded that we come together today with heavy hearts, but also with deep gratitude,” Galtelli said. “We are here to remember and celebrate the lives of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to others.”
Following Galtelli’s welcome, there was a processional that included the Posting of the Colors by the American Medical Response (AMR) of Central Mississippi EMS Honor Guard. Galtelli then addressed the audience once more before the service proceeded.
“As I look out over the audience, I see the brave men and women who represent many EMS agencies,” Galtelli said. “But we all work together to ensure the health and safety of our communities across this great state. This is EMS Week; a week dedicated to appreciating the service that we provide to the community. As we sit here this morning, we may reminiscence about the many hours that we sat in the front of an ambulance waiting on the next call. Or when some of you sat together after a call, consoling each other over the traumatic events you just witnessed as part of our service to the community. We have held each other close in our greatest time of need because we chose to do the work of caring for others in their greatest time of need. Today we honor the lives of those people we have lost.”
AMR paramedic Eric Phillips then took the podium to explain the significance of the Table of Honor which was set up as part of the service. Each element had a special meaning, down to the white tablecloth symbolizing the purity of EMS professionals’ intentions to respond to the needs of others. AMR paramedic Stella McNeer followed Phillips with an opening prayer before Director of the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services David Hall gave his remarks.
“It’s important to honor EMS providers,” Hall said. “Their service has had important implications for improving health and healthcare in our state. They have provided a truly essential service for our communities, our friends and our families. Those of us who have served with them know the significance of their service. We understand the risks that come with the job, and their sacrifices. EMS providers don’t generally choose their profession for what it pays. Rather, they answer a call to service. Those who have answered the call to EMS have done great things in and for the state of Mississippi.”
Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Daniel Edney followed Hall’s remarks with a few words of his own about EMS professionals’ crucial role in healthcare.
“When we’re talking about life and death, minutes matter; ya’ll understand that more than anyone,” Dr. Edney said. “Unfortunately, those precious minutes that we as physicians and healthcare providers at the hospital desperately need to achieve good outcomes often times come with a very high price. From the things our EMS professionals have to see on the side of the highways and in homes, to what they have to work with in those moments that sometimes put them in personal danger, it is a high price for them to pay. I want to say thank you to those who continue to serve and that I’m so grateful for those who have paid the ultimate price in the line of duty. No words I could say would rise to the occasion, but I know God has said those perfect words to them, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves took the podium next to give the key note address and thank the EMS professionals for their service.
“I want to thank quite a few people, including the AMR Honor Guard, for reminding us that in this nation that we live, in spite of our challenges, we are quite blessed to live in the greatest state in the greatest nation in the history of mankind,” Gov. Reeves said. “I want to say thank you to every single one of you who serves. I also want to thank your family members because as you serve and put yourself in harm’s way to protect others, that has a toll on you as individuals but it also has a toll on your family, as well.
“Today we gather to recognize those who have paid the ultimate price while serving in the line of duty as EMS professionals,” Gov. Reeves said. “Since 1974, we’ve tragically lost 132 courageous individuals right here in Mississippi. While they might not be physically with us here today, I believe in my heart that they are here in spirit. They will never be forgotten. They came from many different backgrounds and parts of our state, but they are united by one common factor: their tremendous courage.”
After asking everyone to take a moment of silence followed by a prayer, the governor continued to express his gratitude for EMS personnel.
“EMS professionals serve their communities with honor and with distinction,” Gov. Reeves said. “They stand on the front line protecting our lives. They get up, they put on their uniform and they go out into the world, never quite sure of exactly what they will be facing. Thank you for making our state a safer place. It’s the perfect time to remember these great public servants and all the work that you and all of those who have come before you do every single day. The theme for EMS Week this year is ‘EMS: Where Emergency Care Begins’ and to me that really sums it up quite well. You are the first step of emergency care. When a crisis arrives, you are the ones that lay the foundation for the quality of care.
“As long as I’m governor I’ll always have the backs of our EMS personnel and our first responders,” Gov. Reeves said. “We recognize that you tirelessly serve the public. As we conclude this celebration, I just want to reiterate how much I appreciate Holmes Community College for opening this wonderful facility as well as each and every one of you for joining us. We all know that this is the first statewide EMS memorial service that has ever been hosted in Mississippi. I’m so incredibly grateful that you gave me the opportunity to play a very small role in recognizing the service and sacrifice of so many. May we forever remember those 132 individuals and honor their legacy not just today, but every day. May we continue to pray to an Almighty God to watch out for each and every one of you as you continue to serve.”
Following the governor’s address, Linda Ming stepped up to speak as a family representative on behalf of the EMS Memorial Committee. She is the wife of fallen AMR paramedic James Doug Ming, who passed away in 2021 after weeks of battling COVID contracted on the job. He was an EMS in the Metro area for 30 years where he worked for several different companies, living out his life’s mission to help others.
“EMS professionals are certainly one-of-a-kind,” Ming said. “I’m a kindergarten teacher and we call EMS professionals community helpers, but really community heroes is a better description. Hero is a word that sometimes gets thrown around a lot, but in EMS, it is the absolute truth. I want to tell each one of you thank you for what you do. All the names recognized today, they were more than just EMTs and paramedics. They were someone’s spouse, their parent, their sibling or their child. We remember and we honor all of these precious souls who were servants, helpers and heroes in our state. As a family representative, I want to make sure these heroes who gave their lives helping others have a permanent memorial in our state dedicated to them. Today, I urge our lawmakers to enact legislation that will provide some funding for this memorial because it is time to honor and remember these heroes.”
The service concluded with a solemn recessional by the Honor Guard, keeping with the theme of honor, respect and dignity for the fallen EMS professionals. The memorial event was organized by a group of volunteers, including Holmes EMS instructor Sandra Hultz.
“Our group felt that an annual state-level remembrance was needed in addition to the annual ceremony in Washington, D.C.,” Hultz said. “Today we took a major step toward that goal. The EMS personnel who we honored gave their all to help others.”
Several ambulance services and fire-rescue departments drove patient care vehicles to the service, and staff members with AirCare, the medical helicopter service at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, flew a helicopter to the event.
For more information, contact Hultz at .
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IN THIS PHOTO: Pictured are (left to right) Mississippi House of Representatives District 108 Stacey Hobgood Wilkes, Director of the Bureau of EMS David Hall, Holmes EMS Program Director Mark Galtelli, Gov. Tate Reeves and Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Daniel Edney following the first statewide EMS Memorial Service held at Holmes Community College on May 25.