Billy Richards, a U.S. Marine and Army veteran from Islip, is easily recognized at running events across Long Island.
He’s always the guy carrying the 45-pound backpack and American flag, something he started doing two years ago to honor servicemen and women fighting overseas, as well as veterans at home
“Every time I’m out there I get a good response,” he says.
Now he’s looking to bring that positive vibe to cities elsewhere in the country, starting with areas that still reeling and tense from recent deaths involving police officers, as well as place like Orlando where what’s considered the deadliest mass shooting in American history occurred in June.
“There’s been such negative images of police officers being put out there, and I wanted to let them know there are people in the community that care and appreciates what they do every day,” he said.
So here’s what Richards will be doing, both locally and elsewhere in the country:
He’ll drive to a police precinct, park his car and take a long run around the area flying the American flag.
Once he’s done, he’ll present the flag at the precinct, along with a thank-you card.
He has set up an online fundraising campaign to help with supplies, but says he’s undertaking his Thank the Police Tour no matter how much money comes in from supporters, whose names he’ll add to the thank-you cards he presents to the police officers.
He’ll take most of his trips on weekends to start, likely beginning in August, with Baltimore being his first stop, and then return home. (To be clear, this isn’t one long trip across the U.S.)
Richards started yesterday right here at Suffolk County’s 3rd Precinct, where he parked his car and ran down through Bay Shore and Islip, up toward Sunrise Highway and back west.
He later got his picture taken with the precinct’s commanding officer, Inspector Robert Waring, along with the flag. (photo above)
“It was an awesome experience,” he wrote on Facebook along with the photo.
“The precinct was filled with nothing but smiles.”