MOLLY PARKER THE SOUTHERN
MARION – From the mountains to the prairies, from sea to shining sea, Old Glory is making its way across America.
For the second year, Team Red, White and Blue (RWB), a Florida-based nonprofit supporting veterans, is sponsoring the Old Glory Cross Country Flag Relay.
Southern Illinois residents can catch a glimpse of the runners today between 8 a.m. to sunset as they make their way from Chester to Harrisburg. More than 60 people from this region are participating in the relay run that, in total, spans 60 days and 3,450 miles.
The relay began at sunrise on Sept. 11 in San Francisco and is expected to conclude at sunset on Nov. 8 in Washington, D.C. – three days before Veterans Day.
Tammy Sisco, a Navy veteran and medical support assistant at the Marion VA Medical Center, is among those running this week.
Sisco said that, for her, the run is about raising awareness for veterans, and encouraging people to get out and exercise. Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of veterans by helping connect them with physical and social activities. Sisco said she and others regularly plan running events in Southern Illinois to encourage camaraderie and physical fitness among veterans.
She’s running, along with Marion VA employee and veteran Amanda Korando and Marion VA Police Officer Kyle Webb, a 2.56 mile leg from Pentecost Road on Old Route 13 in Marion (near Crossfit and Ike Honda) to the Marion VA.
Community members are encouraged to come out and watch the runners as they come through various towns along the route. “We want people to be out as the flag comes by,” she said. People who want to gather and cheer on the runners at the Marion VA are encouraged to gather at the end of Commander Drive. The runners are expected to arrive there between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., though the times are only best estimates.
Thanks to a GPS tracker attached to the flag, people in the region can follow the progress of the runners online, and estimate the time they will be coming through their community, as the runners make the trek across Southern Illinois, by visiting: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/9180231.
Relay team members departed early Saturday from Jefferson Barracks. In Chester, local police officers shut down the bridge for runners to safely cross. The mayor, local veterans and a Boy Scout troop were expected to meet the runners there and help escort the flag across the bridge before it was to be retired at the Randolph County Courthouse, said another runner, Tom Harness, of Herrin.
The runners on Sunday – Team RWB Marion – will travel along Country Farm Road to Shiloh Hill, and continue through Campbell Hill, Ava and Murphysboro. They will then run along Route 13 through Carbondale and Carterville, turn right on Route 148 and travel along Main Street in order to stop at the Marion VA. They will then continue along Illinois 13 to Harrisburg and will end the day around sunset at the Harrisburg Elks Club, also a sponsor.
Nationally, Team RWB set a goal for the relay to raise $100,000 through sponsors, including Microsoft, and private donations. So far, the group has raised $70,000, said Dan Brostek, marketing director for the organization. That’s more than the group raised last year on the inaugural Old Glory relay.
Those interested in donating can do so online at oldgloryrelay.org