By Dan Brostek, Team RWB Marketing Director
This is the discussion that happens multiple times a day as we carry Old Glory east across the country.
Relay Bystander: “What Are You Doing?”
Team RWB Member: “We are running the American Flag from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. over 60 days.”
Relay Bystander: “But why?”
Team RWB Member: “So we can have this very conversation.”
Running with the American Flag at any time is an awesome experience. Running Old Glory 3,540 miles through the heartland of America is absolutely surreal. The very image of one individual and one flag, unified in motion, generates questions, curiosity, honks, waves, high fives, tears, expressions of gratitude, and most importantly, the sharing of personal stories and experiences.
Over the course of six days I traveled with Old Glory from Telluride to Colorado Springs. I experienced some of the most epic scenery this country has to offer, and against that backdrop I’ve witnessed everyday Americans coming together from all over the state and country with a single mission…move Old Glory forward…one step at a time.
And in these steps is where something truly magical happens. These steps create stories, and these stories create connections. Given the time, I could write a short book on my journey with Old Glory through Colorado. Instead, I will highlight some of the unique experiences I had over the course of six days and more than 350 miles from the San Juan Mountains through the Arkansas River Valley to the Front Range.
There was a moment of total serendipity as I witnessed a few Team RWB members meet a complete stranger on our way into the small town of Ridgway only to learn that they were all involved in the 1989 Panama invasion. It was absolutely captivating to hear their stories and see them recount those harrowing experiences.
I experienced a moment of uncontrollable laughter when I learned what happens to a runner when you get too close to a cattle truck coming around a curve. You can use your imagination on this one. Bottom-line, it’s funny…unless you are the runner.
We had CDOT workers serenade us with the National Anthem as they paused their blasting for a few minutes so our runners could bypass the construction work and continue moving Old Glory up Monarch Pass.
I heard amazing stories from veterans, civilians and active duty members about how they found Team RWB and the impact the organization is having on their lives. One individual lost over 120 pounds and made fitness a priority in her life. Another individual shared his story about getting clean and battling his addictions. Another veteran with over 25 years of service talked about dealing with the struggles of readjusting to civilian life. Many commented on how they found the camaraderie that they had been seeking since they left the military. Some shared their Faces of Old Glory…personal stories of their grandfathers, uncles, sisters, cousins and friends that have positively impacted and shaped their lives. And some folks just liked the awesome red shirt and wanted to join the team, and in doing so found so much more.
I witnessed people testing their physical and mental limits as they pushed through the heat, My favorite experience of all was the handoff…that split second in time when the energy and power of Old Glory transitions from one runner to the next. Having both witnessed and experienced “the handoff” hundreds of times, I still find it hard to put into words how moving this experience truly is.
“So what are you all doing out here?”
Well, we are creating connections…we are sharing stories and experiences, and in the end, we are uniting around a shared goal to enrich the lives of our veterans.
So as the flag continues to move east, take an opportunity to get involved and experience the relay firsthand. You can still register as a relay or virtual runner and you can donate to help grow the programs that Team RWB is delivering in communities across the globe. Visit OldGloryRelay.org to learn more.
Blog post inspired by Dave Price.