In his younger days, Army veteran Carl Franklin, 46, manned the gun on an M1A1 Abrams tank in Kuwait.
This Friday, he’ll grab a ride of a different sort. Franklin, of Aurora, Nebraska, will climb on the saddle of his Trek 820 mountain bike Friday morning and help his fellow veterans escort Old Glory for 99 miles across southeast Nebraska, part of one flag’s 62-day cross-country journey, from sea to shining sea.
“There’s something about carrying that flag,” he said. “If you’re tired and you see the flag go by, it picks you up.”
Franklin is a member of Team RWB — which stands for red, white and blue — a national organization of athletic-minded veterans, and friends of veterans, that is sponsoring the cross-country flag relay.
Hundreds of Team RWB members are participating in the Old Glory Relay, which started Sept. 11 in Boston and will end Nov. 11 — Veterans Day — in San Diego. It will cross 4,300 miles and 24 states along the way, including more than 200 miles through the Cornhusker State. It’s the fifth year the organization has held the transcontinental run and ride.
Team RWB’s mission is to connect veterans to one another, and to nonveterans, all across the country, through athletic and charitable events. Veterans sometimes feel isolated when they leave the military.
“It helps them get connected with the world,” Alex said. “We want nobody to be left out.”
The flag is being run by Iowa veterans Thursday from Anita, Iowa, to Council Bluffs.
On Friday morning, Team RWB members from Nebraska will take the flag in a ceremony at the Gene Leahy Mall in downtown Omaha, said Robbin Alex, a Persian Gulf War veteran who is captain of the Omaha chapter.
She said a group from the Omaha Police Department will carry the flag the first mile. About 20 members of Team RWB will carry the flag, either running or cycling, along Highway 6 to Lincoln, and then on to Beatrice — nearly 100 miles in all. Employees from Wells Fargo also are helping.
On Saturday, the relay will begin at Homestead National Monument and continue 146 miles west to Alma, Nebraska. Sunday the relay continues into Kansas.
The Old Glory Relay is Team RWB’s largest fundraiser. The goal is to raise $250,000.
The Omaha chapter has raised more than $1,800, toward a goal of $3,000. The public is invited to contribute, or to turn out along the route to cheer the flag-bearers on.