FORT HOOD — Volunteers from Killeen H-E-B grocery stores loaded up their trucks with true Texas barbecue Tuesday and headed to the Fort Hood Fire and Emergency Station 1 to show support for first responders for their contributions to the public.

On Patriot Day, volunteers from H-E-B stores across the state of Texas visited 730 fire stations around the state to feed the first responders as a gesture of thanks for everything they do, highlighted by the sacrifices made by first responders during the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, said H-E-B spokesman Johnny Mojica.

“Today is our 14th annual ‘Helping Heroes’ volunteer program, which is a way for our H-E-B (employees) to give back to our local communities,” Mojica said. “This is our second year to be here on Fort Hood to serve the five local stations, including the military police station. Every year our (employees) look forward to giving back to our fire fighters, who do so much to protect us every day.”

The volunteers rolled out a meal of barbecue — which included brisket, sausages, potato salad and banana pudding — a meal much appreciated by the post firefighters.

“We can’t say enough thanks for everything they have done for us over the years,” Fort Hood fire Capt. Kevin Kees said about the H-E-B volunteers.

Roughly 90 percent of the emergency personnel at Fort Hood are U.S. military veterans themselves who served after the 9-11 attacks, said Kees, an Army veteran.

“We all proudly served ... we are still paying tribute back to the soldiers we all once were,” he said. “It’s crazy to think how many years it’s been since that day — it still feels like yesterday. It’s crazy to think that a lot of kids nowadays don’t remember those events, and next year we will have soldiers in the fire service with us ... that weren’t born when that tragic event happened.”

Firefighter Andrew Creech, a U.S. Air Force veteran, said it was amazing seeing how the local community supports the first responders and the gratitude they display for the services they provide.

“On 10 September, I was at (a Military Entrance Processing Station) to leave for basic training, and then it occurred,” he said. “It’s hard to put words to it, knowing that (17 years later) the community is going to be there no matter what we have going on. We know they appreciate what we do, especially days like today.

“It’s hard to put words to it — it’s something special,” he added. “They can’t get enough thanks from us.” | 254-501-7554

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