Air Medical Memorial Transcript: Groundbreaking Ceremony June 23, 2011

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Jonathan Godfrey

Why We Honor and Remember

Jonathan Godfrey
Vision Zero Chair at Association of Air Medical Services
Crash Survivor and Co-founder Survivors Network

Yesterday I took my 3 children to the National Mall in Washington, DC because they wanted to see “the monuments.” They had questions as we walked among the memorials and I found myself tell them much of what I will be answering here today.

Why will we have this memorial? Why is it here? What does it represent? Who does this memorial serve?

The air medical community … we are people who rise quite literally to the occasion, strap in and launch into the unknown for the injured, sick and dying. We do not run from broken people and things but fly towards them. It is not without great pride, a little loss of sanity or self preservation that we affectionately serve our patients and their families.

This environment in which we live or operate has risks. These risks are inherent and well known to each of us when we become air medical providers. We work tirelessly to mitigate risk but also know that some element of risk will always remain. I must however assure you that we will always refuse to find acceptable a single injury or even one death of a crew member in the line of duty.
Tragically we have lost many lives and even more have been injured while our community has emerged from its infancy and endured many growing pains. The senseless loss of life is not unlike many other heroes’ lost in the public service area like our police forces, fire fighters and EMS first responders.

The great members of our armed forces believe that there is honor and value in remembering those who gave their lives in service … WW1 and 2, the Gulf conflicts, Korea and of course Vietnam. Like these other great memorials, we recognize the honor and value in a permanent National Air Medical Memorial for a nation of families, friends and co-workers.

Like them, we commit ourselves to remembering and celebrating those lives which were cut short … not to focus on the tragedy of their death but on the impact of their life. There is no intent to call any additional attention to individual crashes, the misery or the pain of the process many would wish to forget. Instead, we remember for a moment those we have lost only to be respectful, remember the lives they lived and those they inspired.

I would like to point out some the ways we strive to focus not on tragedy but on the people we are here to remember and celebrate.

  • We are in the community, the suburbs. This is who the air medical providers are most likely to serve, far from the care that they need in their hour of most need.
  • We are not in the large spotlight at one end of our country or the other. We are central, in a geographical location that is more accessible from all corners of our nation. This is in keeping with where you would find an aircraft placed to serve a community.
  • This site is not found at sea level but at altitude. This physical high point of our nation, for a national monument, is at an altitude much higher than other national monuments and memorials. They were our flight crews and we will celebrate their lives at an altitude where they love to live

Most directly, this National Air Medical Memorial has nothing to do with the crash but has everything to do with the people.

On the way home yesterday, my daughter summed it up in her 8yr old words: Dad … these (the memorials) are good. They are actually for us, the moms, dads, kids, friends and family.

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