Government officials, police, and emergency medical service volunteers from across the South Fork came out to honor Tom Field and Al Phillips, Jr., for not only volunteering on their local ambulances, but for teaching countless hours of EMS courses for the past 25 years. The party was a surprise, as each one thought they were going to a party in the other's honor.
"It was totally unexpected," said Field, who has been teaching for 23 years. "These people are just phenomenal, how could you not feel honored?"
"How many people have been in Tom's basement," asked John Ryan, Sr., who is also an instructor and in charge of the East Hampton Town lifeguards who each year are certified in CPR. Practically the entire room, fileld with dozens who had come out to honor both men, raised their hands.
Whether it was for a basic CPR course, to become an emergency medical technican, or for help studying for an even bigger EMS course, they had received help from Field and Phillips. Field is a member of the Amagansett Fire Department since the early 1980s. Phillips has been teaching for 28 years, and has been a member of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Coprs for 33 years.
"I can tell you from the county, one of the things I look at, sad to say, I have to look at the finances," said Tom Lauterle of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, before presenting the instructors with proclamations from Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy for making sure residents "get the best emergency care known."
"I do realize that there's no better bargain from the county than Tom and Al. Yes, a class is 130 hours for an EMT course, Tom and Al probably put in close to 230 hours. They prep more than anyone else."
Former Assemblyman John Behan said he was the beneficiaries of Field and Phillips' hard work as instructors. "They may not have physically been there to save a life, but their knowledge was there to save a life," he said.
Six years ago, Behan, who lost both of his legs in Vietnam, fell off his wheelchair outside his house in Montauk, fracturing his skull in three places. "I was given the last rites by my local chaplain when he happen to be driving by my house and he saw me laying in my driveway, bleeding through my ears and my mouth," he said. "It was the men that arrived right after him that were taught how to do their work by Tom and Al. Without that time and knowledge, I wouldn't be here today."
Robert S. Chaloner, the president and CEO at Southampton Hospital, said, "We see the results of your work everyday in the hospital. On behalf of the board of trustees, the administration, the doctors, and nurses, and everyone at Southampton Hospital, thank you from the bottom of our hearts."
Denise Schoen, who is with the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps, said in lieu of gifts, the organizers had asked for donations. They had already received $1,800 as of Sunday and were going to accept more for another two weeks. "We're going to use those funds to buy a piece of equipment for Southampton Hospital and dedicate it to Tom and Al for all of their years of service," she said.
"I do it because I like to. I find it enjoyable, the ambulance part, the teaching especially," Phillips said. "I know my name's on the plaque or whatever, but it's not all about me. If it weren't for these people out here who do it, it wouldn't matter."