The Washington Redskins and the Prince George's County Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department [EMS] hosted over 100 National EMS Memorial Bike Ride participants at FedExField on Friday, in the final leg of their journey to Arlington, Va., for the 16th annual National EMS Memorial, which takes place this weekend. The Memorial weekend pays tribute to all the first responders who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
A good number of riders started in Ottawa, Ontario, and met the rest of the group in Boston, then made their way down to the Washington area. Once they arrived at the stadium, they had a good meal, got some rest, had an awards ceremony, took a mini-tour of the building, and hit the road again for the 30 mile ride to Arlington for the memorial service.
Brian Shaw, vice president of the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride, is a paramedic with over 20 years of experience. He's seen the event grow from the days when there were only four Boston paramedics who wanted to ride to the Memorial to honor their fallen brothers and sisters, to where it is now, with chapters and events happening all across the United States.
"I tell everyone, 'All we need is you for a day,'" Shaw said. "Once you come out and spend one day with what we consider 'The Muddy Angels,' we'll have you for a lifetime. It's something we look forward to year after year."
The riders were greeted with quite a startling visual once they arrived on the stadium grounds. There was a photo memorial setup, which had a short description of how each responder lost their life.
As hard as it was for the group to ride for 500-1,000 miles, they kept their collective minds on the task at hand, which was giving their all for each and every person in that memorial, their families, and for every other responder who sacrificed their lives for our safety.
"We talk about the ride that takes blood, sweat and tears to make this ride happen, [but] the more you look at the posters, there's a lot more tears shed than there are blood or sweat throughout the week," Shaw said. "That's what it's all about: It's honoring our EMS brothers and sisters; those that have gone before us, [and] those that have left us too soon. We'll always have them in our hearts."