Racing coast to coast in the country they fought to serve, a group of veterans and their supporters came through Santa Clarita with the American flag in hand on Thursday as one stop in the 62-day Old Glory Relay.
Nonprofit organization Team Red, White & Blue started the 4,600-mile race in Seattle, Wash. on Sept. 11 and will complete it on Nov. 11, Veterans Day, in Tampa, Fla.
By the time the flag reaches the finish line, it will have touched 10,000 sets of hands.
Over 70 teams, made up of veterans, active duty service members and supporters, are participating in the relay by running, walking and cycling in the 4th annual event.
“Everybody sees patriotism a little bit differently,” Donnie Starling, Team Red, White & Blue Development Project Manager said. “This allows us to take our families and friends and go ‘this is what it’s all about.’”
Team Red, White & Blue’s goal is “enriching the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their communities through physical and social activity.”
“This is kind of a very big symbol of that,” Starling, an Air Force veteran said. “I guarantee if I put a flag in your hand and had you run a couple blocks, you’d be smiling.”
On Thursday, the flag made its way from Rincon Point in Carpinteria to the Westfield Mall in Valencia and will head to Long Beach on Friday.
“It’s this amazing opportunity for us to connect with veterans in their communities,” John Willis, Team Red, White & Blue Finance Manager and Army veteran said. “For many people, they haven’t been part of a team in a long time.”
John Nelson, a Santa Clarita resident, participated in the race on Thursday.
He got involved with Team Red, White & Blue because he wanted to understand veterans and their stories better and thank them for their service in a tangible way.
“You hear of this veteran-civilian divide and we forget that we are all citizens of the United States,” Nelson said. “We’re all really the same and I want to bridge that gap.”
Valencia resident Melanie Brackey read about the event on social media and decided to come show her support for the military.
“It helps the vets and active military feel appreciated,” Brackey said. “It’s a way to show them we do care.”
National Guard veteran, Thousand Oaks resident and Team Red, White & Blue Athletic Director Jaclyn Pieper participated in the race Thursday as well. She said after she was done serving, she wanted to continue having an impact.
“I was looking for a little more meaning in what I was doing,” Pieper said. “I think it’s incredible to bring both civilians and veterans together.”
Team Red, White & Blue has 127,000 members among 225 chapters and communities.
For more information, visit teamrwb.org.