Communities cannot afford to shortchange operations.

They show up in an instant when we need them most.

Of the emergency responders we depend on every day, firefighters and police officers often grab much of the spotlight.

The professionals who work alongside them during fires, accidents and other emergencies also deserve attention and praise.

Emergency Medical Services personnel often referred to as EMS are called on every day to save lives.

We know people in need stand a better chance of a positive outcome when they receive quality care from EMS before arriving at the hospital. Yet too often, that vital intervention is taken for granted.

Not so today, as the National EMS Memorial Service will help raise awareness of EMS contributions through a program honoring 20 individuals from the EMS ranks in 13 states who died in the past year. Among the honorees is Lakin's Jeff Landgraf, the Kearny County EMS director killed in a motorcycle accident in April 2011.

Each year in a ceremony in Colorado Springs, members of the honorees' families receive a medallion, which symbolizes eternal memory; a U.S. Flag that flew over the nation's capital, which symbolizes service to the country; and a white rose, which symbolizes their undying love.

Honorees' names are engraved on a bronze oak leaf on the National EMS Memorial's "Tree of Life."

As for Landgraf, known for being a leader in his field, his name also was etched in Kansas history with his recent induction into the Kansas EMS Hall of Fame. Other regional EMS professionals received various awards during the 2012 Kansas Emergency Medical Technicians Association state conference.

It's safe to say most EMS workers would rather go about their business without much fanfare. Still, the honors help raise awareness of their important work.

Of course, not every EMS worker will receive a plaque or other honor for their efforts.

That doesn't take away from their important contributions. Those who do their job with skill and dedication deserve our gratitude, and a commitment to adequately fund their salaries and operations.

Even though it's sometimes easy to take quality EMS services for granted, we have an obligation to show our wholehearted support.