John Long has taken long walks across Bulloch County the past two years at Peace Officers Memorial Day. This year he plans to walk 50 miles, as two loops around Statesboro’s bypass, and asks the public to join in a first-time memorial service.
The Fallen Law Officer Memorial Service will be held at noon Wednesday, May 15, which is Peace Officers Memorial Day and the midpoint of Police Week, at Connection Church, 1342 Cawana Road, Statesboro. All donations will benefit the Statesboro Police Officers Foundation, Bulloch County Sheriff’s Foundation, Peace Officers Association of Georgia, Bulloch County Sheriff’s Explorer Post 8, Georgia Police K9 Foundation and Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire, Long announced.
“Any donations we take up, at the end of the service and the walk we’ll be splitting them up evenly between these six nonprofit organizations for law enforcement,” he said.
Long is known for his work as the director of Christian Social Ministry, based in Statesboro. But he walks at his own initiative to show support for law enforcement officers.
Fell out, came back
For his first walk in 2017 he set out to cross Bulloch from the Jenkins County line to the Bryan County line, a distance of 40 miles, but collapsed of dehydration after 27 miles.
“I learned a lot about training,” Long said this week. “I went back two weeks later and I finished it. I did the last 13 miles two weeks later, after I got out of the hospital.”
In 2018, he successfully completed his nonstop cross-Bulloch trek.
“Last year I walked that 40 miles in 14½ hours, clickety-clack, no problems, and that was great. I had a lot more in me,” Long said. “So that’s the reason why, since I’ve learned how to train and what I’m doing and how to hydrate myself, I decided to do 50 miles this year, and I’m doing the bypass.”
He plans to start at 6 p.m. Tuesday from Connection Church, walk to Veterans Memorial Parkway – also known as the U.S. Highway 301 bypass – and then walk two full loops, to one end of the bypass and then the other, through the night and the next morning. The bypass extends 12 miles, so these two loops plus the connecting road from the church and back will give him 50¼ miles.
Long has given himself 18 hours to complete the walk by the noon Wednesday service, and believes his training has prepared him to do that. The needed pace is a little less than 3 mph.
Law enforcement officers in patrol vehicles escort Long during the walks, and he thinks that following the four-lane parkway will be less disruptive to traffic than using two-lane roads
He has titled the 2019 walk “50 in Honor of the Fallen Five-O,” with the “Five-O” being a pop-culture nickname for police.
Flags and the fallen
For the memorial service at Connection Church, the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office and Statesboro Police Department honor guards will form a joint honor guard to handle the flags. Long will again be carrying a “blue line” flag in honor of peace officers as he walks.
With the honor guard to help by formally folding this year’s flag, he plans to present the flag he carried in 2017 to Sheriff Noel Brown, the 2018 flag to Statesboro Chief of Police Mike Broadhead and the 2019 flag to Georgia State Patrol Post 45 Commander Chris Rodewalt.
“The closing part of the service is going to be very, very moving,” Long said. “Several officers will be involved as we recognize the names of the officers that gave their lives.”
This will include a reading of names of Georgia law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty during all of 2018 and to May 15 this year, he said.
K9’s and kids
Some of the organizations to benefit from donations have unique local roots.
Advanced Patrol Officer Kyle Briley, canine handler with the Statesboro Police Department, founded the Georgia Police K9 Foundation in 2016 and serves as its board president. He hopes to have several local K9 officers join in escorting Long to the church Wednesday.
“The last leg, from a mile to three miles, we’re going to have, hopefully, four dog teams finish it out with him,” Briley said. “That’s obviously depending on our schedules and what’s happening that day.”
The foundation assists active and retired law enforcement canines. Its efforts include awareness education for the public, training for canine teams and providing protective equipment such as vests and heat alarms. Services the foundation has donated so far to the SPD and Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office alone would be worth more than $50,000, he said.
Explorer Post 8, hosted by the Sheriff’s Office, is a new chapter of the Explorers, a career-based Learning for Life program affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America. Local organizers petitioned for the “Post 8” designation to honor the badge number of BCSO Sgt. Wilbur Berry, who lost his life in the line of duty May 19, 2001, when he was shot by a fugitive.
“So it’s kind of fitting,” said BCSO Deputy James “Bubba” Revell, the post’s advisor, of its being named as a memorial service beneficiary.
Open to a maximum of 20 members from 14 to 21 years old, Explorer Post 8 held its first official meeting in early April and now has 12 members. They receive training like that of law enforcement officers but are kept out of harm’s way, Revell said.
“Just getting that started, there are a lot of expenses right now,” he said. “You know startup costs are always higher than maintaining.”
Just this week, Revell ordered uniforms for the 12 as the post prepares to send them to the Explorer Police Academy at Forsyth in June.
Hazarding a guess of $1,500 to $2,000 as the annual cost of each member’s participation, including uniforms, supplies and travel expenses, he said the goal is to provide everything so that a family’s finances are never a barrier to participation.
The Explorer post has received no taxpayer funding so far but has been supported by fundraising and designated donations to the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Foundation. Revell was part of discussions of starting an Explorer group for more than four years before the launch.
“Money was the biggest issue, and then we pray that we’ve got enough to keep it going,” he said Thursday.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.