People travel from thousands of miles away or just down the street to be with their families on Christmas Day. Opening presents, sharing a meal, and even watching the games are all part of celebrating the holidays. But as families across the Coast have enjoyed this special day, an important group of people have been on stand-by to protect the public.
"Christmas Day, just another day in paradise," Gautier Fire Lieutenant Lance Cochran says, as the door to the fire station opens.
It's family time at the Gautier Fire Department, although you won't find any kids running around the station.
"We've got a big family, a really big family," Gautier firefighter Gene Gildea says.
Instead of unwrapping presents, they're unloading trucks. But the camaraderie that circles around this table is nothing short of magical.
Lieutenant Lance Cochran didn't get to see his kids open their presents this morning. A quick phone call helps to bridge the gap.
"Yeah let me talk to Jake a minute. Hey buddy, Santa Claus come see you? He did? What did he bring you? Lots of stuff? Wow...," Cochran says as he talks to his 3-year-old son on the phone.
"It's just part of the job, they understand. Some Christmases Daddy's home, some Christmases Daddy's gone. It's just part of it. It comes with the territory, when you sign up for this job and decide you're going to protect the public, you deal with that," Cochran says.
For fire departments across the country, Christmas Day is no different than any other day of the year. After being on duty for just over an hour, they were reminded that their duty as public servants is to save lives.
"When that tone goes off, you forget what day it is. It doesn't matter, it's time to go to work," Cochran says.
It6's work that travels beyond the 9 to 5, and extends 365 days a year. Because for this family, at their home away from homes, the safety of their community comes first, no matter what day it is.
"My family understands that as well as the rest of these guys' families. They're here for a reason. It's an unselfish job. You have to take time away from yourself to give to others," Gildea says.
Some of the firemen said they celebrated Christmas with their families last night, some plan to do it Tuesday morning. Most importantly, they stress that their service to the community comes first. That's why they've chosen this job, not just today, but every day.