Duty calls on Christmas

Published 9:32 am Saturday, December 24, 2011

Franklin Police Sgt. Mark Cornell is one of the police officers tasked with working on Christmas Day. As part of the holiday officers will be handing out toys to children as they patrol. -- Dale Liesch | TIDEWATER NEWS

FRANKLIN—Christmas starts extra early for Franklin Fire Capt. Ricky Grizzard.

That’s because he and his family plan to be up to unwrap gifts at 5 o’clock Christmas morning before he starts his 24-hour shift at 8 a.m.

“I’ve worked a lot of Christmases,” the 24-year department veteran said. “With this job you have to.”

To firefighters on Franklin’s A shift, Christmas Sunday is just another day this year, said firefighter Vernie Francis III.

“There are fires on Christmas; there are wrecks on Christmas,” Francis said. “It’s like a regular day.”

Francis said the A shift also worked Thanksgiving this year but will have New Year’s Day off.

Firefighters aren’t the only first responders who have to work on Christmas; police officers do as well.

Sgt. Mark Cornell said holiday duty is just part of a regular shift rotation for sergeants in the department. He said an officer’s family has to be understanding, especially around the holidays and other big events.

“Police officers have to have a loving family, who have to know what to expect,” Cornell said. “You’re going to miss some birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.”

Cornell has a daughter and said working on the holiday won’t be too bad because he works the late shift and will report at 7 p.m. He will get home around 8 a.m. Christmas morning.

“It’s part of a commitment I made 27 years ago to the citizens,” he said of working on the holiday. “They deserve to have police out protecting them and their families.”

Also as part of the holiday this year, officers on patrol will hand out toys left over from the Trooper Hill Toy Drive, he said.

For Lisa Rickman, a registered nurse at Southampton Memorial Hospital, Sunday is just another day as well.

Rickman, who is a medical/surgical nurse on the second floor, worked Thanksgiving as well and has three daughters. Christmas shifts at the hospital have been shortened to 8 hours instead of the typical 12, which will help Rickman enjoy some time with her family.

“I think we’re going to (celebrate) after I get off,” said Rickman, whose shift starts at 7 a.m. Sunday.

She said the celebration would consist of Chinese takeout and opening gifts.

“You get used to it and you work around it,” Rickman said. “You change your plans where you can.”