BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Just days ago, the Olympic torch finished its long journey to Pyeongchang to kick off the 2018 Olympics. Meanwhile, a Kent County Sheriff’s Department reserve deputy was preparing to carry a torch of his own.
Kent County Sheriff’s Department Traffic Squad Reserve Deputy Matt Garbarino plans to run across Michigan this summer to honor fallen law enforcement officers. He’ll carry the Thin Blue Line American Flag, which he explained represents solidarity with police and honors those who have died in the line of duty.
“I actually love running with it. I love training with it. It kind of makes people feel good when they see someone doing something like that,” Garbarino said when 24 Hour News 8 caught up with him Sunday as he trained.
Trudging through the February cold and snow carrying the flag is just another day of training for him.
“The run won’t be like racing something,” Garbarino said. “I’m not running for a time, I’m running for a purpose.”
His run this summer is for the 590 Michigan officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Garbarino, an avid runner, has already carried the flag three times in the annual Fifth Third River Bank Run 25K. He’ll do it again at this year’s annual road race through Grand Rapids. The experience got him thinking.
“It really opened up a lot of conversation with the runners, like, ‘What is that? What’s it represent?’ And you’d start having conversations about it’s for fallen officers and to honor (them). Same with spectators. And so my thought is over the last few years, I thought it’s really been an interesting engagement thing to run with that I thought it’d be neat to do something on a bigger scale,” Garbarino said.
Led by a Kent County sheriff’s cruiser, he plans to start his cross-state run at 9 a.m. June 4 in Pontiac at the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Fallen Heroes Memorial and finish June 7 at the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Protector Monument in West Olive. To make the distance in the scheduled four days, he’ll have to cover 40 miles each day.
Families who have lost loved ones in the line of duty will be at various checkpoints throughout the run.
“The families that have already reached out to me that have lost somebody has been extremely humbling and just learning about their stories, and I think what’s going to go through my mind, is whatever pain that I’m going through and discomfort, it pales in comparison to what these families have had to gone through,” Garbarino said.
You can donate to the run online at the Kent County Sheriff’s Department Traffic Squad website.