How one flag can put the spotlight on many veteran issues
In the hearts of patriots all across this great country of ours, Old Glory isn't just a piece of red, white, and blue cloth — it's a symbol. A symbol of freedom, democracy, and the American way of life. No one knows this better than the military community, who go to war with the flag on their shoulders. Even after service, you'd be hard-pressed to find a veteran who doesn't have a flag displayed in their home in one way or another.
Today, Old Glory is touching the lives of thousands as it makes its away across the country, carried by veterans, troops, and patriots alike on a trek from Boston, Massachusetts, to sunny San Diego, California. Over ten thousands pairs of hands will have carried the flag as it moves across twenty-four states and over 4,300 miles. Along the way, The Stars and Stripes are bringing attention to many of the issues that the veteran community faces.
This is Team RWB's Old Glory Relay.
Every participant in the Old Glory Relay is running to support their own cause, but all of these causes are important to the veteran community. Chief among these issues are the disastrously high suicide rate within our community, the struggles of isolation, sedentary lifestyles, finding meaningful post-service employment, and combating the stigma surrounding veterans seeking help for mental issues.
There's no simple solution to any of these problems. There's no magic wand to wave and make them disappear. It takes a serious conversation within the community. And this conversation can only happen when we all come together and make our voices heard in a singular, booming voice — and that's exactly what the 10,000 men and women carrying the flag across the country are doing.
The best way to get everyone's attention? By making a large event that runs from September 11th to November 11th.
Recently, We Are The Mighty chatted with Tom Voss, an Army veteran and member of Team Red, White & Blue (or Team RWB) who will be carrying the flag across the finish-line on Veterans Day, November 11, 2018. Voss is no stranger to participating in events to raise awareness for veteran issues. A couple years back, he and another Iraq War veteran walked across the country to put that much-needed spotlight on important issues.
"It's always important to pay homage and pay our respects to all the men and women that came before us." said Tom. "Look at the American Flag — that's what it represents. It represents the men and women who have sacrificed everything, the families that have sacrificed everything so that we are able to live the lives that we do today."
Team RWB's mission is to enrich the lives of America's veterans. They do this by connecting veterans to their community through physical and social activity. Outside of massive events, like the Old Glory Relay, local Team RWB chapters assist local communities in smaller ways, like placing flags at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery, building housing areas with Habitat for Humanity in Los Angeles, putting on Range Days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, all to bring veterans together within their communities.
The veterans who participate in these events get a sense of camaraderie that they've been missing since their departure from active-duty life — but the door is always open to civilians, too.
If you miss your time in the airborne, don't worry: They have skydiving events as well.
The Old Glory Relay is like a perfect encapsulation of everything great about Team RWB. Veterans, active duty troops, and civilian patriots are banding together for a great cause. In addition to bringing attention to many of the issues that the veteran community faces, they're also helping bridge the ever-expanding civilian-military divide.
"I think what it comes down to is, veterans are open and willing to share their stories. But you have to ask. Coming from a place of non-judgement and not just saying, 'thank you for your service,' but really asking, 'what happened during your time in Iraq or Afghanistan? Because I weren't there. I don't know. All I know is what I saw on the news.' Coming from a genuine place like that from the civilian standpoint is really important."
If you're in the area, be sure to catch Tom Voss and the rest of Team Red, White, & Blue as they cross the finish line in San Diego, California on November 11th.