Sitting inside the Wendy's off of N.C. 581 Monday, Tyler Edmundson has no idea what's coming.

He is happily enjoying his birthday lunch -- he is 24 now -- with friends and family members when several uniformed Goldsboro police officers walk through the door.

There is a special announcement, a longtime wish is about to come true for the boy -- scratch that, man -- born with special needs.

Tyler has always had a special place in his heart for first responders. This day, he will become one of them.

"He knows each of us by name and knows each of our vehicle numbers," Cpl. Dillon Fleming said. "No matter where we are, Tyler always takes time out to stop by."

Fleming and his fellow officers showed up at Wendy's to help Tyler celebrate his birthday. But they had a different sort of gift in mind than the kind that comes wrapped in a box with a bow.

Tyler's face lights up with a big bright smile. He claps his hands and begins to beam with excitement.

In Fleming's hands is a form for Tyler to sign permitting him to ride along with the Goldsboro police for a day.

Tyler's affinity for the men and women in uniform who brave the unknown each day began a long time ago. He is widely known in the first responder community.

Just two months ago, Wayne County Fire Marshal Bryan Taylor presented Tyler with a shirt that says, "Honorary Fire Marshal."

He enjoys watching the television show "Cops," and has embraced each Goldsboro police officer he's met. He's also been to every Coffee with a Cop event hosted by Goldsboro police.

Before hitting the street in the patrol car, GPD Sgt. Jason Adams places a bulletproof vest on Tyler and presents him with a police cap.

Now he is ready to serve and protect.

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Tyler's ride-along Monday included stops at the Goldsboro Police Department and the 911 communications center. He also rode with officers throughout the city.

Debra Newman, Tyler's caretaker of eight years, said it meant a lot to him to have officers take part in his birthday celebration.

"Tyler thinks that he is one of the officers," Newman said.

His birthday was a daylong celebration that began with lunch, where he received lots of birthday cards, hugs and laughs. Later in the day, he traveled to Kinston with his parents for dinner at the Chef and the Farmer.

Tyler has worked at the Wendy's restaurant for a year, said Torleta Jones, manager. She said he is a joy to have on staff.

"The customers just love him and many of them come and dine with us when Tyler is working," Jones said.

Although he was born with special needs, Tyler's mom, Sharon Edmundson, said her son does not allow it to hinder his ability in any way.

Tyler is friendly, outgoing and loves being a part of his community, she said. He has also overcome many odds.

"I have never told him that he could not do anything," she said.

Edmundson said her son is her inspiration and that he has not allowed his special needs to define him.

Tyler enjoys participating in the Special Olympics, where he is on the bowling team and has won several gold medals.