With the help of runners and cyclists, a single American flag is traveling from sea to shining sea across the United States.
It is all part of the third annual Old Glory Relay, organized by nonprofit Team Red, White and Blue whose mission is to “enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.”
The cross-country relay began Sept. 11, Patriots Day, and will continue until Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
During the flag’s two-month journey, 62 teams and more than 1,000 participants are charged with moving the flag the approximate 4,200 miles from its starting point in Redmond, Wash. to its finishing point in Tampa, Fla.
And this Wednesday and Thursday, Old Glory is making its way through the Santa Clarita Valley.
Valencia resident and veteran Mark Jenkins is traveling with the flag through the SCV and across the country. His goal is to run about two miles with the flag in every state it travels to.
“I’m trying to raise awareness for senior veterans,” he said. “It’s really been a lot of fun. Everyone that carries that flag is really stoked about it.”
Jenkins said the Old Glory Relay is unique because it includes a variety of people young and old, veteran and civilian. On Wednesday, he followed behind a group of six women who began their leg of the race early in the morning.
“These six girls came from Ventura to run,” he said. “Some are prior military, some just like to run… You don’t have to be a veteran to participate.”
Jenkins said the runners cover about 50 miles each day through side streets and bypass roads along major freeways as they pass the flag from participant to participant.
“It’s enough distance to get people to run together during the day,” Jenkins said. “Everyone loves doing it.”
Joanna Graham, who sits on the board of directors for Team Red, White and Blue, joined the relay this week for logistical support and to run when needed. On Wednesday, Graham ran 14 miles through the mountains in Frazier Park.
She said she began running a couple years ago when her mother passed away. Team Red, White and Blue allowed her to connect to the military ties she already has, through her husband, father and father-in-law, and develop a stronger bond with her father.
“My father was a Vietnam war-era veteran and did not have the warm reception and support that today’s veterans have,” Graham said. “Team Read, White and Blue… allowed me to connect with my dad in a way that I haven’t been able to in 35 years.”
During the 500 miles Graham logged throughout her first relay, she said her favorite part was the quarter mile she walked with her father. While they walked, her father opened up about what it was like to serve in Vietnam, receive a bronze star and lose friends.”
“What keeps me running and moving is the opportunity to have stories like that and the opportunity to make those stories available to other people so they can have their own special moment,” Graham said.
After Santa Clarita, participants will move the flag through the length of California before turning east to Arizona and continuing through the southern half of the country to Florida.
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_