Even after her untimely death, Carmen Burnette’s legacy of community service continues to enrich the lives of others. As a wife, mother, first-responder, EMT-Paramedic, Field Training Officer, and CPR Coordinator, Carmen’s passion for making a difference is exemplified through the thousands of lives touched by her dedication to promoting heroism through selflessness. She began her work as an emergency medical technician in 1998 and quickly became a well-known face in her community of Putnam County, Tennessee. Carmen earned her paramedic license in 2000 and was soon selected as one of the first field training officers with Putnam County EMS in 2002. She was the Putnam County EMS CPR Coordinator from the inception of the program and until her untimely death. In this role, she was responsible for scheduling CPR / AED training for county employees, local church groups, the Boys State Program and students at the county’s local high schools.
In 2009, Carmen was awarded a District IV Homeland Security Award for “exemplifying the highest standards of a first responder, always going above and beyond expectations to deliver excellent patient care.” Carmen was again afforded this honor on September 11, 2011 (posthumusly) and her award was received by her son Brandon Burnette.
Throughout her 13-year career, Carmen was a five-time recipient of the Putnam County EMS “Lifesaver Award” for succesful cardiac resuscitations and a shared recipient of the State of Tennessee EMS “Star of Life Award” for outstanding life support related to the successful resuscitation of a cardiac patient. He attended her funeral.
Under her nine-year leadership as CPR Program Coordinator for the Putnam County EMS, more than 14,000 residents of Putnam County were trained or retrained in CPR/AED use. In July of 2011, a few months after Carmen’s death, a former student used the life saving skills learned in Carmen’s CPR training class to save the life of his 3-year old brother who was injured in a swimming pool accident.
In January 2011 Carmen sustained a back injury while on the job. On February 15th, 2011 during corrective surgery to repair this injury, she suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Carmen was 38 years old at the time of her passing. She leaves behind a loving husband, Mike; her two sons, Brandon and Connor; and a step-daughter, Rachel.
In April 2012, state of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed into law a bill requiring Tennessee High School students receive “hands on” CPR training in addition to the cognitive skills being taught. This Bill was named the CARMEN BURNETTE Act of 2012. To further memorialize her life of love and service Carmen will be permanently remembered on the National EMS Memorial Tree of Life in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The official service will be held in June 2012 recognizing her and eighteen others for their sacrifice in the line of duty.