Carrying an American flag that will travel over 4,600 miles across the country, participants of the 2017 Old Glory Relay were welcomed by a cheering crowd in National City.
Veterans and supporters walked into the Westfield Plaza Bonita mall on Sunday, Oct.1, for a celebration of the fourth annual relay that aims to honor those who have served in the military and display support for veterans.
The flag began its course on Sept. 11 in Seattle, Washington, and will arrive in Tampa, Florida, on Nov. 11.
The nonprofit organization that focuses on connecting veterans with their communities through physical and social events, Team Red, White and Blue, kicked off the relay this year with the theme “Unity” with presenting sponsor Microsoft.
Donnie Starling, Team RWB Enterprise Development project manager, said they anticipate that the flag will probably touch around 10,000 hands.
‘When folks go out and run, it doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are, where you came from, or whatever, put an American flag in your hand and take it on a run or ride a bike and smiles come out,” Starling said.
For Dane Kaimoloa who served in Iraq in 2006, attending events like the relay is about being surrounded by people who he can feel comfortable around because they have had similar experiences as him.
Dane Kaimoloa wanted to honor those who “gave their all” in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
“You don’t know until you’re home that your bed is not a bed anymore,” Kaimoloa said. “It was weird I couldn’t sleep in my bed it was just weird the comfort, in Iraq it was horrible, nothing comfortable there.”
Kaimoloa was at the event showcasing his truck known as, The Memorial Truck, which is wrapped with 4,422 pictures men and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The pictures are colored in a way that from a distance it looks like a giant American flag but from up close they are photographs.
He wanted to advertise the way commercial cars advertise businesses but he wanted to advertise for those who gave their all, he said.
Events such as the relay not only allow veterans and civilians to interact in their communities but they also allow other veterans to meet and share their stories with people with similar experiences.
There was live entertainment at the mall, with appearances by the Team RWB, retired Marine Corps Major General and Vice President of Microsoft Military Affairs, Chris Cortez.
The relay’s next milestone event is planned for Oct. 6 to 8 from Phoenix to Houston.