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Runners honor airman

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

DULUTH -- This time, the race hits home.

Just before 24 police officers and firefighters set out on a 600-mile relay run to Tampa, Fla., one of their own wished them luck as they set out to honor her son, one step at a time.

Sherry Fields, a crime analyst with the Gwinnett Police Department, said she was amazed that her friends and colleagues who support the nonprofit Operation One Voice would run all the way to Tampa to honor her son, Staff Sgt. Shaun Meadows.

Meadows, a Winder-Barrow High School graduate, was injured on July 31, 2008 -- his birthday -- while deployed as a member of an Air Force Special Forces team.

A double amputee, Meadows has returned to his unit, and was planning to participate in the race this Veterans Day weekend. But instead he had to report to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to have his prosthetic legs fitted.

Fields' sergeant in the county police force took Meadows' place, alongside colleagues of Meadow's step-father, who recently retired from the county fire department.

"It's a good feeling to know so many love and care for us," Fields said, adding that the group helped the family arrange to be with Meadows after he was injured. "They've been wonderful to us and to Shaun."

Operation One Voice Special Operations Forces Run is in its fifth year. Organized by Duluth Police Lt. Bill Stevens, the run is completed by 24 runners who run for an hour each at a time, running around the clock 72 hours to reach Busch Gardens.

With a motorcycle unit leading the way and a bus for the men and women waiting their turns to run, stops are scheduled for Atlanta, Albany, Tallahassee, Fla., and MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

"I'll be thinking about you the whole race," Fields told the group, which included officers from Tallahassee.

Hall County firefighter Steve Durling, who is participating in his fourth run, said he is honored to meet special operations soldiers and airmen along the journey.

"It's an incredible honor to meet these guys, these soldiers who perform those dangerous tasks with the military," Durling said. "It's just police and fire giving back."

The race itself, he said, is powerful.

"It's so exhilarating. When you are going as hard as you can, it's fantastic," he said.