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Event to honor first responders

ALBANY -- Area motorcyclists and antique vehicle owners will leave Flint River Harley-Davidson at 10 a.m. Sunday on a very important mission.

The riders will serve as escorts for Special Operations teams, firefighters, law enforcement personnel and Marine runners taking part in the local leg of an annual run from Atlanta to Tampa to promote Operation One Voice, an organization designed by police officers, firefighters and community leaders to raise money to help support the immediate needs of children and families of wounded and fallen Special Operations forces.

"Special Ops forces are the folks on the front line," local event organizer Paul Murray said Wednesday. "This program was started after 9/11 as a way to support the families of fallen and wounded Special Ops personnel. The run goes from Atlanta to Columbus to Albany to Tallahassee to Tampa, and organizers say the Albany event usually gets the most support.

"Our ultimate goal each year is to get larger, to show these people who put their lives on the front lines that we support them."

The community is invited to start lining up at the Harley dealership at 2815 Old Dawson Road for the event's 10 a.m. kickoff and then meet the first responder personnel at the Veterans Park Amphitheater at 11 a.m. for a ceremony.

"There's a group that takes part in the ceremonies, but there is another group that continues on the 600-mile run," Murray said. "There is always someone on the ground.

"One of the things we're pushing locally is support for our Marine base. It dawned on us recently in all the years (Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany) has been here, the only time the city stops to recognize it is if we're afraid of losing it. We want to honor our Marines."

Following the run -- which will take participants down Gillionville Road, Slappey Boulevard and Oglethorpe Boulevard -- and the ceremony at Veterans Park, Flint River Harley-Davidson will sponsor an appreciation party that will include food and a live band. There will also be a silent auction in support of Operation One Voice.

Participants are asked to fly their flags and wear their uniforms, camo, fatigues and other gear in support of the first responders participating in the event. Also, T-shirts supporting OOV will be available for $10, and each purchase includes a 20 percent discount coupon for food at Hooters, which is providing the refreshments for the party.

"This is a perfect opportunity for the people in the community to come out and show support for our country's first responders," Murray said. "And this is not an event just for veterans; we welcome everybody."

America's Special Operations forces include Army Special Ops Command, Naval Special Warfare Command, Air Force Special Ops Command, Marine Force Special Ops Command and Joint Special Ops Command.