Firefighter Heroes Enjoy Southern Hospitality - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Firefighter Heroes Enjoy Southern Hospitality

Soon after their plane touched down, they headed for the golf course.

Visiting firefighters from New York City are getting some much deserved vacation time in South Mississippi. They'll spend the next few days golfing, fishing and playing at coast casinos.

Several of the firefighters had scheduled a golf outing to the coast last October. September 11th interrupted those plans.

Since then, several Coast companies and casinos have pitched in to make certain the visiting heroes will have a vacation to remember.

It got started on the President Broadwater golf course Monday afternoon.

"Fore, fore!"

Lenny Vitale screamed as his partner's tee shot headed for a group in the opposite fairway.

The New York City firefighters tried their best to tame the golf course. But they don't care much about the scores. These next few days are about having fun.

"It's been a while since we've been able to get away. And I think we're going to have a good time. We'd like to thank everybody in Biloxi. Everybody seems to be taking care of us very nicely," fireman Mike Oates said.

Fred McKeon and his firefighter pals are happy to enjoy a little Southern hospitality this week. Golfing in Biloxi is a welcome break from ground zero.

"We lost friends and stuff. Guys have been working real hard down at the site. It was a lot of friends we ain't going to see again. They haven't found them yet. A lot of guys have been taking care of families," McKeon said.

Firefighters say they appreciate all the support and encouragement they've received since 9-11. This mini-vacation is another way of saying thanks to these heroes.

James Wynne helped organize the trip.

"The idea is for them to relax, have a great time and see the Mississippi Gulf Coast's hospitality," Wynne said.

The playfulness of the tight knit group of firefighters goes beyond a little competitive golf. We found them on the third hole, launching water balloons at one another.

The water balloons are a spin-off of an older tradition that involved dumping pails of water off the fire station roof.

New York City firefighters plan on filling these next few days with as much fun as possible.

They deserve it.

"We were always close. But since September 11th, it's very tight now you know. There's a lot of mental problems you know, tough times. But we're coming through. We're doing all right you know. The city's doing good too," firefighter Lenny Vitale said.

By Steve Phillips

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