SPOKANE, WASH.- When Army Master Sergeant Mitch Kriebel heard the news that Kittitas Police Officer Benito Chavez was injured, and Kittitas County Sheriff's Deputy Ryan Thompson was killed in March, Kriebel knew he had to do something.
"It seemed like it really hit home and I spoke with my parents a little bit about what we could do to help, and the idea came to mind that I would go down and purchase a thin blue line flag," Kriebel told KHQ.
Kriebel is based out of Dallas, Texas and traveled to Wisconsin for what the military calls a ruck.It's a 31-mile treck carrying 50 pounds or more full gear often as a training exercise.
Kriebel broke his back in Afganistan and had surgery to stay in the Army. Once he recovered, he started the rucks to maintain his physical condition. This was his fourth one, but it was special.
"Through the hills and the valley's and what they call mountains over there. I carried that flag all 31 miles. I then went to the Tomah Police Department and passed that flag to them with the idea of would you all please send that flag back across the United States from police officer to police officer," said Kriebel.
The Tomah Police Department didn't hesitate at all.
They passed the flag along to other agencies who signed it and kept it going before it was time for that special flag to make its journey home. But it didn't go by snail mail, UPS or Fed Ex.
It was handed off from state patrol to state patrol at each state line, traveling first class in the front seats of patrol cars across the country for the ride.
"We've seen it go from Wisconsin to Minnesota to South Dakota. It went into Wyoming, it went into Montana, Idaho and finally Washington state," Kriebel added.
During the flag's three month journey, Kriebel was worried it might not make it the way he had hoped, but incredibly it did.
"I actually thought sooner or later the folks, the officers would be like you know what let's mail this thing we have the address it could be as simple as that. They never even thought twice. They made that delivery. And the times that I thought it got bogged down, the only reason it was bogged down was because as many officers as they could, wanted to sign it. I thought that was absolutely outstanding," said Kriebel.
Kriebel hopes the flag will send a message to Officer Chavez and the family of fallen Deputy Ryan Thompson.
"The message I would send to those officers and officers across the nation is they live by deeds, not words. They let their deeds do the talking, and they do it selflessly, and they're just amazing people, and I want them to know that all though they might not hear it as much as they absolutely should we as a nation are here to support them and we are very very proud of them."
Officer Benito Chavez will be returning to work for the first time since the shooting on Monday. A special ceremony will be held at 9:00 a.m. at the police department to welcome him back to duty.