As David Ayer, lieutenant at the Harker Heights Fire Department, woofed down the last of his lunch, alert tones of an emergency call blared over his head.
“Uh oh. They’re playing our song,” Ayer said, and his crew of 11 firefighters shuffled out the door to their ambulance and fire truck in response to a Labor Day accident.
By lunchtime Monday, the fire department was responding to its fourth call of the day.
“We get a lot of calls on the holidays,” Capt. Cindy Hicks said. “People are out overeating, over-drinking. Accidents go up.”
For first responders, Labor Day is just another day at work, said Michael Licavoli, a firefighter and paramedic.
The firefighters rotate through 24-hour shifts every third day, from 7 a.m. to 7 a.m. “We have a great time working here,” Licavoli said.
The firefighters were treated to a lunch of fresh lasagna, bread sticks, drinks and salad delivered by The Olive Garden for working thanklessly on the busy holiday.
The Killeen Olive Garden served the Seton Medical Center Harker Heights emergency room, the Harker Heights Fire Department and the Killeen Fire Department as part of its annual Labor Day tradition.
“We are doing it because we want to,” Olive Garden server Sandra Nunez said. “It’s really my day off, but they risk their lives every day for us. They deserve it.”
The newest addition to the free Labor Day lunch tradition was Seton, which opened in June.
“They are new to the area, and we thought it would be good to welcome them and show them around,” Olive Garden sales manager Clinton Caple said.
Thalia Jones, a registered nurse at Seton, said she likes coming to work on the holiday as long as her husband is at home to take care of the children.
“It’s not much of a holiday when the kids are out of school,” Jones said, jokingly.
Emergency room nurses work 12-hour shifts, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the emergency room is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.