Honoring EMS Week and Memorializing Our “Ambulance Drivers”

Since I first certified in the mid 1980’s, many of us who are EMT’s and Paramedics sometimes turned our noses up and were temporarily offended, when we were referred to as “ambulance drivers”. After all, with the amount of equipment we carry and utilize, the training that we have received and continue to receive, today’s emergency medical services personnel essentially bring a small emergency room to your location. It takes so much more than a driver’s license to be a skilled Emergency Medical Technician or a Paramedic. So with all those skills, modern equipment and technology, maybe you can understand why we can be selfishly offended for a little bit, when we’re referred to as just an “ambulance driver”. I’ve had great some really great partners and instructors along the way. I’ve benefitted from all of them and I am thankful to them.  I share many stories to those who will listen, simply because some of them are just so funny, and yet some are filled with commitment, mentorship and pride.  There are so many stories that many of us could tell as we celebrate this year’s National EMS Week. However, since we’re not too far away from Memorial Day, I want to take some time and remember our past and current military heroes. I dare say that we don't do enough to honor their memory and further say that I believe it is our duty as American citizens to keep alive as many memories as we can about those who have fallen in the service of our great Nation. During this week, as my colleagues and I will celebrate "National EMS Week". We honor the past and present of who made great the groundwork and who built our foundation of what we now know as "EMS" and rightly so. Last year, towards the ending of "National EMS Week" and before last year’s Memorial Day, I took the time learn something. I would like to try and tie the two events together to share what I learned. And so, in the summer of 1914, under the command of Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II, German troops landed France, storming their country. During that time, the American Colony there started up a volunteer ambulance service, based out of the American Hospital. Their job was to transport the wounded soldiers there, from the front lines. The American Hospital was located just outside of Paris. In the beginning of 1915, a former Harvard professor, Abram Piatt Andrew, came to France to be a volunteer ambulance driver. He would later earn the nickname "Doc" Andrew as he had a PhD in Economics. "Doc "Andrew was able to build an independent organization, "The American Field Service Ambulance" out of being a subsidiary of the American Hospital. The American Field Service Ambulance was able to reach a total of 2,000 volunteers. Many of them college students, recent college graduates, men of education, such as "Doc". And at least one of them, was a notable poet, known as Ernest Hemingway. Many of these ambulance drivers were 17 years old. All of these courageous volunteers traveled back and forth the battlefields transporting the wounded. They had to pay for their own meals while there and had to pay for their traveling expenses to France and other places of battles like Serbia, Albania, Italy and Greece. The Model T, invented in 1908, was modified into an ambulance and by 1917, Ford was awarded the military contract for WWI. Many an ambulance driver and stretcher bearer lost their lives transporting the fallen war heroes. Also in 1917, The American Field Service Ambulance Service was taken over by our military. "Doc Andrew" eventually moved on and served as a Congressman from 1921 to 1936, and died while in office. I won’t be as offended any more, if someone calls me an “ambulance driver”. Our American History is rich and pretty damn honorable. Our history in pre-hospital care and “ambulance driving” is also rich, honorable and very much deserving of recognition as much as possible. To “Doc” Andrew and all of those "ambulance drivers" and "stretcher bearers", during this National EMS Week and in honor of this coming Memorial Day, I say to them as well, "Thank you."


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