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Veteran carries U.S. flag through Knoxville as part of 9-state relay culminating on Veterans Day

The Old Glory Relay involves close to 5,000 veterans and supporters who are taking the American flag from the 9-11 Memorial in NYC to Atlanta by Veterans Day.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — An American flag's 62-day journey that began in New York City on September 11 made its way through Knoxville Tuesday with the help of a local veteran.

You might have seen U.S. Army National Guard veteran Nathan Smith carrying Old Glory through the city. He traveled 18 miles through the city with the American flag before handing it off to the next person that would take it to Maryville as part of the Old Glory Relay.

"Getting people to be active, that's gonna help both their physical and mental health," Smith said. "It's been neat. I probably have about 5 or 6 miles left in me before my legs give out, but it's been a really unique experience."

The relay is working to bring the flag to Atlanta on Veterans Day with the help of 5,000 veterans and supporters from nine states, including Tennessee. On November 11, the relay will culminate in Atlanta after having traveled a scenic route from Knoxville that takes them through Chattanooga, Nashville and Birmingham, Alabama. The next leg of the relay on October 27 will take the flag through Lenoir City.

Team Red, White and Blue, which organized the national event, said the goal is to help veterans overcome the challenges many face after transitioning out of the military, such as isolation, weight gain, lack of purpose, and other health issues. 

"Having a common goal and working toward something together. Today it's moving the flag over 40 miles through Tennessee," Team RWB associate director Jessica Reid said. "We all faced a huge challenge with COVID and the last year of hardship."