The sun was just beginning to rise Thursday when members of the Fort Walton Beach High School marching band and several dozen other folks gathered in the Starbucks parking lot in Uptown Station.
Their mission was to give some patriotic athletes a proper send-off as they began Day 54 of the Old Glory Relay — a massive effort to carry a single American flag across the United States. Coordinated by Team Red, White and Blue, a nonprofit organization that enriches the lives of veterans through social and physical activity, the relay began in Seattle on Sept. 11 and will finish in Tampa on Veterans Day.
“We have about 20 participants from our area,” said Heather Sorsby Motschenbacher, the athletic director for the local chapter of Team RWB. “We’re going to be carrying the flag 51 miles in stages from here to our next stop in Panama City.”
The local participants are part of a 10-state, 4,216-mile trek that has seen more than 7,000 people come in contact with Old Glory in some fashion.
“This is all about connecting folks to the American flag,” said Donnie Starling, Team RWB’s national development project manager. “One hand-off after another, under the shade of Old Glory.”
In addition to raising awareness about Team RWB and its activities, participants in the relay have raised money for the organization across the country.
“We were amazed at the reception we’ve received from local sponsors,” Motschenbacher said. “We set a goal of raising $500, and we ended up with more than $1,500.”