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Honoring two Remarkable Careers of Community Service as EMT’s

Critical Need for More EMT’s in Area

For over 30 years, both Lawrence and Marsha Benda have been on duty for ambulance calls every Monday and Tuesday night, plus numerous weekends and most any other time when needed.  They both retired last spring and have left big shoes to fill in the EMS community.  When asked why they began their volunteer EMS careers, they both simply stated they wanted to help their community, being there for people when they really needed them, and that they did.

Their interest in EMS began back in 1989 when Lawrence, who was Boy Scout Master at the time, had the Scouts on a weekend camping trip, when one scout broke his leg.  Neither Lawrence or the other chaperone had any medical training.  Soon after, Lawrence signed up to take the First Responder Course so he would know how to help in the case of another emergency.  He then began driving the ambulance for emergency calls and transfers.

Marsha, who was Assistant Scout Master, also felt she needed medical training since they were taking the Scouts on field trips often twice per month to remote areas such as the Boundary Waters, and wanted them to be in safe hands.  The next year, Lawrence and Marsha decided to both take the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course together at Veterans Memorial Hospital.  They both started taking ambulance call right away and have continued on all these years.

“It was all well worth it,” states Lawrence.  “We helped a lot of people in the community when they needed it and as an EMT you need to be ready to help anyone.”

“So many people have come back over the years and thanked us for our service and really showed their appreciation,” adds Marsha.  “That makes all those sleepless nights well worth it.”

Throughout their careers, Lawrence and Marsha continued their education, taking ‘vacations’ together to attend the Iowa EMS Conventions and fulfilling their continuing education hours that all EMT’s are required to do for their license.  They learned so much from sharing questions with other colleagues and were dedicated to educating and instructing others in EMS class.

 “Once you take the EMS course, get right in there with your local service and get your hands dirty,” advises Lawrence.  “That experience will be vital.  You never know what you will get in on, and some of them are tough situations, but you are there when people need you the most.  You won’t save everyone no matter what you do, but that’s not our decision who lives and dies—that’s decided higher up.   No one does this for the pay—it’s the satisfaction.”

We have no regrets,” adds Marsha.  “This was a wonderful thing for us to do together.  We took many calls and transfers together and could review them and teach each other how we could improve.”

“It always felt good to get the patients to the hospital and pass them onto great nursing staff and ER docs,” adds Lawrence.  “All of our ER providers have been very good over the years, and now they are always in the hospital, ready to respond.  A few years ago we had to wait for them to come over from the clinic or drive into town, so it is much better now.  They work hard to get to the bottom of the issue and fast.”

 “We really need to make EMS an essential service because right now it doesn’t get the funding it needs, and that makes it much harder to recruit the staff.  We need people to realize that,” Lawrence pleas.  “We are fortunate here in this community for the hospital and all the local EMS services and county EMS association.  Some areas of the state have few services with long response times.  We are fortunate to have our good equipment and good services, but every service in the area could use more EMT’s.”

“Responding to emergencies as an EMT is probably the greatest help anyone can give,” concludes Marsha.  “It’s not only for your community, but for your family too.”

The number of Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s) in this area has dwindled over the years as licensed EMT’s, such as Lawrence and Marsh Benda, have retired.   Allamakee and northern Clayton Counties are fortunate to have many emergency response services, but nearly all of them are in need of more EMT’s on their service to share the call time, ensuring local emergency services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Enthusiastic, willing volunteers are needed to fill future NICC EMT classes.  More details will follow in local newspapers as well as the Veterans Memorial Hospital website at