Meridian Star

Local News

August 11, 2013

‘Thunder Run’ rumbles back to Meridian

MERIDIAN — During the dog days of the Iraq War in 2005, members of the 155th Brigade Combat Team made up mostly of Mississippi Army National Guard soldiers, were in a knock down, drag out fight with insurgents and terrorists.

    It was during this time members of the 155th BCT, also known as "Thunder Run" and recognized by the lightening bolt patch on their shoulders, formulated an idea that would ultimately become known as the Dixie Thunder Run. The idea was to raise money for wounded war heroes while at the same time helping the warriors' families. It would be warriors helping warriors.

    Now in its eighth year, the Dixie Thunder Run is scheduled to come roaring into Meridian and Chunky River Harley Davidson on South Frontage Road Aug. 31. The massive motorcycle rally will bring together motorcyclists who are veterans from all across the Southeast. Larry Spencer, media coordinator for the fundraiser, said this is the largest such event in Mississippi and the second largest in the South.

    "We want to be the largest so we do have something to shoot for," Spencer said.

    The Labor Day weekend event will bring between 1,200 and 2,000 bikers to gather at Chunky River Harley Davidson in Meridian. The day will include meet and greets with the veterans, music, food and raffles. Two Harley Davidson motorcycles will be raffled off, with a third bike, a special edition trike, to be given away later in November. Music will be provided by Black Jack Billy and Anna Morgan Michel. It is for the entire family, Spencer said.

"We will provide shuttle service from Bonita Lakes Mall parking areas to Chunky River," Spencer said. "We encourage everyone to come out and register for the motorcycles, meet these fine veterans and enjoy the music."

    Proceeds of the event will go to Operation First Response (OFR). The mission of OFR is to serve all branches of America's Wounded Heroes and their families with personal and financial needs. Services are provided from the onset of injuries or illness, throughout their recovery period and along their journey from military life to the civilian world.

    Financial aid varies as each case is based on individual needs ranging from rent, utilities, vehicle payments, groceries, clothing and travel expenses.

    Spencer said over the course of the last seven years, the event has raised a little more than $570,000. Spencer credits the public support and that of the sponsors for the past success of the event.

    "There is no way we can thank everyone or to tell them how much we appreciate their involvement," Spencer said. "I hope they know we couldn't do this without their help and there are thousands of veterans and their families who have benefited from their generosity."

    Spencer said the rumble of the motorcycles should start reaching a peak around noon on Aug. 3. Soon after the motorcyclists have finished lunch, the fun will begin with the raffles and music. Spencer said the tickets for the raffle can be purchased at Chunky River Harley Davidson up to and including the day of the event. ----

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