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Soldier’s Purple Heart bike stolen

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In his 28 years in the armed forces, Russ Long has guarded the Tomb of the Unknowns, worked as a military police officer and served as an Army reservist.

But Long said he recognized that some had given even more in service to the country, and he wanted to honor them. So, two months ago, he decided to turn his 2003 Harley-Davidson into a rolling, roaring memorial to the service members who had fallen.

On Thursday, with his work still unfinished, a thief snatched the bike.

“The military is my life,” said Long, currently serving in the Army National Guard. “That’s why I knew this project was the right thing to do. That’s why I’m so devastated my motorcycle was stolen.”

Long had sketched a design for two Purple Hearts to adorn the back and a third to be emblazoned across the front along with the slogan, “Dedicated to those who sacrificed all.”

The theft occurred in the 5500 block of Seminary Road in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County around 2:10 p.m. Thursday, Fairfax police said. Surveillance footage showed the thief riding the motorcycle, a Road Glide 100th Anniversary edition model, out of a parking garage.

Police said they believe local residents may have heard the thief pull away because the motorcycle has a loud exhaust system.

The motorcycle is not just a sentimental loss: Long said he has spent about $8,000 upgrading and customizing it with chrome parts, a fresh paint job and other work since buying it in 2007. It was also his primary means of getting to work.

Long, 46, said he hit upon the idea for the tribute bike during a Memorial Day weekend event called “Stars and Stripes and Spokes” in the District. After entering a contest for the most patriotic bike, he said he realized that silk-screened Purple Hearts would be the perfect complement to his purple paint job.

The Purple Heart is awarded to service members who are wounded in battle or to families of soldiers who have died in combat. Over the years, Long said he has met a number of soldiers who later gave their lives in war.

“The bike was my way of saying ‘thank you,’” Long said.

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