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Military escort ride to pass through Henry, Clayton

Special Photo: U.S. Marine Cpl. Tony Mullis was in Afghanistan, in April, when he received injuries from an improvised explosive device. An escort ride in his honor will pass through Henry and Clayton counties, Saturday.

Special Photo: U.S. Marine Cpl. Tony Mullis was in Afghanistan, in April, when he received injuries from an improvised explosive device. An escort ride in his honor will pass through Henry and Clayton counties, Saturday.

Residents on the Southside are being called upon to pay tribute to an injured military serviceman as he makes his way home.

A “Bringing Home an American Hero” escort ride is scheduled for Saturday, in honor of U.S. Marine Cpl. Tony Mullis.

“It boils down to Semper Fidelis, the Marine Corps motto of ‘always faithful’ to those past, present and future who fight, die or are injured fighting for the freedoms that this country was founded on,” said Junior Vice Commandant Cody Smith, of Marine Corps League Detachment 1373. His group is coordinating the ride, along with the Rolling Thunder GA-3 motorcycle group, and the Patriot Guard Riders.

Mullis, 21, of Hawkinsville, Ga., was on his second deployment to Afghanistan, April 6, when he sustained injuries from an improvised explosive device, resulting in amputation of his legs.

“It was the day after his first child — his son, Cason — was born,” said Smith.

A procession will begin at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, at approximately 9 a.m., and will travel south on Interstate 75, through Clayton and Henry counties.

“Any other riders who want to join up can meet us at the Flash Foods on Watson Blvd., and I-75 in Warner Robins,” said Smith. “They will be stopping there to refuel. Kickstands go up at 10:30 a.m.”

Retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Mark Campbell is a Rolling Thunder member and volunteer whose son, Mark, Jr., is serving in the Marines in Iraq, as a combat engineer. The senior Campbell said he recognizes the sacrifices made by Mullis, and others who have been injured or killed while serving in the military.

“We could be doing this ride for our son,” said Campbell. “They’ve given it all, and it’s our turn to give back.”

Roughly 300 motorcycle riders are expected to take part in Saturday’s event. Campbell said motorists should be prepared for more traffic than usual.

“It should be a safe ride, but we do want everybody to exercise caution,” he said. “I would expect the interstate to be shut down when we come through.”

Organizers of the escort ride have been in contact, in recent days, with the Henry County Chamber of Commerce in an effort to spread the word about Cpl. Mullis’ arrival in the area. The Chamber’s Director of Tourism, Laura Luker, said her organization was eager to cooperate.

“We’ve done things in the past to welcome our military home,” she said. “We all want our military to know how thankful we are for their service.”

Following the escort ride, a parade honoring Cpl. Mullis will begin at 12 noon, at Highway 341 and Commerce Street, in Hawkinsville. For more information, visit the Marine Corps League Detachment 1373 page, on Facebook.