Staff Sergeant Ronald Shurer and his teammates on Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3336 were pinned down in Afghanistan in 2008 when Shurer rushed into a crossfire to attempt to treat a wounded brother.

He continued to do so as his team fought from low ground up a mountainside, plunging into the fray and putting his fellow soldiers’ health over his own. He sustained serious injuries in the firefight as he used himself to shield his wounded soldiers.

Shurer was awarded the nation’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor, by President Donald Trump on Oct. 1, 2018. He will be awaiting a group of law enforcement officers that make up the Operation One Voice Honor Ride Team at the end of the ride at Hilton Sandestin in Miramar, Florida.

Operation One Voice’s ride started at the Fallen Heroes Memorial in front of the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center on Monday morning. A group of approximately 35 police officers from Gwinnett County Police Department, Gwinnett Sheriff’s Office, and state patrol agencies from Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, and Virginia teamed up with Special Operations Service members from the United States Army Special Operations Command, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, Navy Seals and Air Force Special Operations Command.

The 383-mile ride from the Fallen Heroes Memorial in Gwinnett County to the Hilton Sandestin Resort in Miramar raises money and awareness for the needs of special forces soldiers and their families. The 13th edition of the ride is in honor of Shurer, who has been battling lung cancer for more than two years. Bikers accumulate pledges for every mile they log on the bike, which go toward the organization’s nonprofit and assists soldiers’ families.

“It’s an honor to be helping them out in the tiny way that I can this weekend,” Shurer said. “This will be kind of the biggest event I’ve been a part of, especially when you consider the scope of it. They’re definitely helping fill in gaps and pretty much taking care of the soldiers. They have other programs trying to support families and spouses, but there are still a lot of balls that get dropped.”

Bill Stevens, a former Gwinnett County firefighter, Duluth Police Department officer and current reserve deputy for the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office, has participated in the ride for all 13 years. Riders stopped in Thomason on Monday, then Albany on Tuesday. There is one more stop set for Bonifay, Florida, before the crew pedals the last 60-or-so miles to Destin. Meeting the green berets and beneficiaries of the ride are the highlight.

“Most or all of these soldiers are wounded,” Steven said. “A lot of the kids are all ages. You realize how this world has changed since Sept. 11. They’be been at war for 18 years. It really does become a family affair.”

The event coincides with Sept. 11 to emphasize the significance that date had on influencing some of the wounded soldiers to enlist. Shurer enlisted in the U.S. Army while he was a graduate student in 2002. He was assigned to special forces in 2006 and deployed to Afghanistan the same year. On his second deployment from 2007 to 2008, he was wounded in the Battle of Shok Valley.

He said while troop deployment numbers may be lower than there were in the mid-2000s when the U.S. was at war on several Middle Eastern fronts, Shurer said Operation One Voice continues to push for special forces who operate outside of the spotlight but still need support.

“It’s definitely a very important mission,” Shurer said. “Since 9/11, there weren’t that many organizations like this that supported the special forces community. They’re kind of the first ones out there filling that space.”

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