With a deep respect for law enforcement, Brooklet resident John Long set out early Monday morning to make a 40-mile trek from one end of Bulloch County to the other to raise awareness of National Peace Officers Memorial Day and National Police Week.
He started at the Bulloch/Jenkins county line on Highway 80 and planned to walk through Portal, Statesboro, Brooklet and Stilson until he reached the Bulloch/Bryan county line.
However, due to heat exhaustion, Long made it through 27 of his planned 40 miles before being transported to East Georgia Regional Medical Center for treatment.
The 58-year-old pastor, known for his work as director of Christian Social Ministries and its food bank, started training for better health about a year ago "so I could keep up with my grandbabies," he said. "I'm not going to get any younger."
When he and his trainer started talking about a county-wide walk, he wanted it do it for a reason.
He didn't collect money Monday. He simply wanted to be noticed - to raise awareness of the daily
sacrifice law enforcement and peace officers make.
He remembers the 147 officers who lost their lives last year, and when he hears or sees negative comments about police, it is upsetting, he said.
"I've always had a heart for law enforcement, and I have a lot of close friends" in the profession, he said. "Seeing all the negative publicity, I've had my belly full.
"I'm sick of it. Those in law enforcement are no different than anybody else."
In all professions, there are "the good and the bad," he said. And while acknowledging that some - a small percentage - of police officers have acted badly, "we have all made bad decisions on some level. But we have let all this liberal criticism go too far."
The average entry-level police officer starts at only $32,000 a year, and many have families, he said.
"Every day they go to work, they are literally laying their lives in the line," he said.
Long walked in the heat, stopping at Pojo's on Highway 80 to cool off and change clothes. He was escorted by Bulloch County sheriff's Reserve Deputy James "Bubba" Revell.
He hopes his walk raised awareness for the cause, and from the number of Facebook posts thanking him and acknowledging his efforts Monday, it did exactly that.
"We need to have respect for our law enforcement," he told the Statesboro Herald as he rested mid-day Monday. "I have a great respect for them. They are the first line of defense. I will do all I can to raise awareness of this."
Of the 147 law enforcement lives that were taken in the line of duty last, and all the ones before them, he said: "Their families gave up their loved ones for me and you."
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.