BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Since terrorists attacked the twin towers eight years ago this month, the Mississippi National Guard says it has mobilized more than 10,000 service members in the war on terror. Once deployed, these men and women usually spend at least a year away from their families. On Saturday, motorcycle lovers from across the state rode in support of soldiers and their families facing separation.
James Blaylock and Adam Corley say they jumped at the chance to combine their love of country with their love of motorcycles.
"I'm a soldier, currently in the Mississippi National Guard, so is my wife and just about all of my friends," said Corley. "So paying back to families in the community."
Each year the Dixie Thunder Run raises money to helps families of deployed guardsmen deal with emergency expenses. Some bikers here say they know what it's like to be serving away from home.
"I'm a retired military, spent time in Vietnam," said Ernert Almond. "When military people are displaced from their families, it's like keeping up two families. The expense is quite enormous, so that's dear to my heart."
National Guardsman James Blaylock said, "We all had friends that got hurt and killed over there, and it's just a good thing to help out with the community. "
Organizers say this Dixie Thunder Run is a little different from years past because it's actually three rides. Bikers left out of Jackson, Tupelo and Biloxi and all met up in Meridian to show how people from all over the state support Mississippi soldiers.
"I think that as soldiers we have an obligation to help one another," said Guardsman Greg Michel of McComb. "This is not just about soldiers. There are people who are veterans, Vietnam Veterans. People that have never served that are trying to do something to give back. All of these people are patriots."
The Dixie Thunder Run capped off with a big party in Meridian. Organizers say their goal is to raise at least $20,000 this year.