Cross-country American flag relay focuses on the Faces of Old Glory

59 teams of runners. 60 days. 3,540 miles. One patriot at a time.

The second annual Old Glory Relay, conducted by Team Red, White, and Blue (Team RWB) and presented by Microsoft, kicks off at sunrise on Friday in San Francisco. As the sun crests the horizon, Old Glory will be unfurled and begin its 60-day, 3,540-mile journey across the country, ending in Washington, D.C., at sunset on Nov. 8.

“It’s symbolic that we’re starting off on 9/11, which can be a pretty tough day for all of us, but we’ve got an incredible way to show a display of positivity and unity throughout the entire Silicon Valley tech community, with our partners such as Microsoft, Salesforce, Facebook, Pinterest and Google all coming together,” says Brandon Young, director of development for Team RWB.

Each day will begin with the first runner unfurling the American flag and end with the last runner folding it and storing it for safekeeping overnight. During the day, the flag will be passed from runner to runner along the route. This year’s theme is “Faces of Old Glory,” and runners and supporters along the route have been asked to share stories, videos and photos of empathy, action and impact for those who served throughout the event on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook using #OldGloryRelay. Some runners will be equipped with a Microsoft Band or Surface Pro 3 to help capture their inspiration along the route. And Microsoft Military Affairs will feature a live blog by Microsoft employees that details their experiences along the route.

“It’s something that you can’t really explain until you put your hands around that flag and you start carrying it, and you feel that sense of pride — with cars driving by honking their horns and people stopping,” Young says. “Just the little stories that emerge — who you think about and what you think about when you have that. So we’re making a point this year to tell people to embrace that and tell us their story.”

As the flag makes its way across the country, celebrations will take place in towns along the route, to engage communities and inspire the IT industry to commit to hiring former service members. Follow the live blog for celebration stops and updates.

“Team RWB does great work helping veterans reintegrate into their communities, specifically through physical activity,” says Joe Wallis, senior military engagement manager, Military Affairs, Microsoft. “So we’re hoping that former service members are drawn to the race, meeting others in their local community that can help them in any number of ways — whether they are having trouble reintegrating into their community, want to get together with folks that have a similar background or just want to get back into running — whatever the case may be.”

Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Approximately 1 million service members will retire or separate from the military over the next five years, so raising awareness and critical funds for Team RWB and the veterans it supports is more important now than ever. Last year the relay raised $372,000, and this year, Team RWB hopes to raise $500,000.

“Normally at Team RWB, 87 cents on every dollar goes to veteran-enriching programs, but with the support of Microsoft this year as the presenting sponsor of the Old Glory Relay, 100 percent of the money generated through individual contributions will go directly to those programs,” Young says. “This partnership has really been incredible. It starts with the foundation of two organizations that have a philosophical common ground on just who the American veteran is, and what the American veteran can do. Both Microsoft and Team RWB share the philosophy that the American veteran is an asset to America and to our communities.”

To kick off the relay, Team RWB, Microsoft employees and former service members gathered on Microsoft’s Redmond campus on Sept. 3 for a pre-relay community celebration and flag 5K. Frank Shaw, corporate vice president, Corporate Communications, Microsoft, started the celebration off by reiterating Microsoft’s commitment to support former servicemen and women and help them find career paths in the technology industry.

“This is a red-letter day for me personally — it combines a bunch of things I love: I love working at Microsoft, I love helping veterans, I love being a veteran and a Marine, and I love running,” Shaw said. “The stories that you can read about the impact of the Old Glory Relay are really touching, and I am really proud to help kick this off.”

“This is where we light the fire,” Young said at the event. “To be able to kick-start the relay right here in Redmond on the Microsoft campus, and with Frank Shaw’s participation, means a lot to Team RWB. It’s a declarative that Microsoft is for real. They’re in this to really focus on the end user, and that, frankly, is the veteran. It’s huge.”

“Everybody can participate in the Old Glory Relay, everybody can participate in Team RWB and everybody can participate in supporting our veterans,” Young says. “When you form that support pocket around the veteran in the community, then that veteran starts supporting the community back, and we all lift each other up together. And that’s really what the Old Glory Relay is about — everybody collaborating and lifting one another up.”

To make a contribution, join a relay team, attend a community celebration or sign up as a virtual runner, visit http://oldgloryrelay.org/. To find out more about Team RWB, visit http://www.teamrwb.org/.