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Ride Honors EMTs Who Died in Line of Duty

Ride Honors EMTs Who Died in Line of Duty

The Frederick News-Post

May 23, 2011

While police and firefighter deaths in the line of duty tend to garner more attention, emergency medical service personnel also suffer similar losses every year.

A group of more than 80 cyclists — made up largely of emergency medical professionals — from 22 states and a Canadian province passed through the area on Friday as part of a weeklong 500-mile ride to remember and honor their fallen brethren.

The National EMS Memorial Bike Ride left Boston on May 14, and the riders stopped by the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Department for lunch Friday as part of the final 106-mile leg of the ride, which ended in Alexandria, Va.

“They all pay their own way,” said organizer Jennifer Frenette. “The staff is volunteering their time. They want to do this to support the mission of recognizing line-of-duty deaths. It truly is an awareness event for the safety issues of this career.”

Frenette, president of the group Muddy Angels, which organizes the ride, said each rider wears the dog tag of an EMS professional who died in the line of duty. At the end of the ride, the tags — along with a poster made by the group highlighting the medic’s life and career — are given to the family or the service for which they worked.

Riders are also asked to raise $250 for the Fallen Angel Fund, which helps support the surviving families of medics.

“Some raise much more than that,” Frenette said.

Forty-two of the EMTs honored during this year’s ride — now in its 10th year — died in 2010. And 23 others who died in previous years were identified and honored, including several Sept. 11 first responders who died from ailments stemming from exposure to toxic dust at ground zero.

Frenette said ambulance and helicopter crashes are the most common ways emergency medical personnel die in the line of duty, but job-related diseases and heart attacks are included in the numbers.

She said families of fallen EMTs have become more aware of the ride this year and have come out to express their gratitude.

“We’ve had family members at about half the stops on the ride,” Frenette said. “That hasn’t happened in years past.”

Karen Hamilton of Manassas, Va. — a flight nurse, an emergency nurse at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and a volunteer medic for the Lake Jackson Volunteer Fire Department — was riding for Cindy Parker, a flight nurse from Memphis, Tenn., who was killed in a helicopter crash.

Hamilton, a cyclist who said she and her husband have ridden more than 20,000 miles in support of the Scleroderma Foundation, was participating in the ride for the second year. In her pack she carried two angel teddy bears, one for her and one for Parker’s family.

“It’s a little something for the family or the kids to remember,” Hamilton said.

Leo Pon of Hartford, Conn., a firefighter-paramedic for the town of Wallingford, Conn., said he joined the ride three years ago as a physical challenge. Pon said he has been moved by the response at the stops along the way, especially at stations that have lost a paramedic in the line of duty.

“I found out in that first year that it’s really, really hard,” Pon said. “But you survive through it and you make so many friends from all over the country and everybody helps everybody. It’s almost like a pilgrimage. We carry their memories with us.”

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