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Team Red, White & Blue’s Old Glory Relay makes way through Gordon on way to Atlanta

By: BRANDI OWCZARZ | Gazette Owner-Publisher
Saturday, May 20, 2023

A volunteer with Team Red, White & Blue's Old Glory Relay brought the flag from Sugar Valley Baptist Church towards Calhoun on Thursday evening, May 18, 2023.

Another relay for a great cause came through Calhoun-Gordon County Thursday night when Team Red, White & Blue’s Old Glory Relay made its way through the community on the way to Atlanta where the group will present the flag for a flag folding ceremony at the Atlanta Braves game today at Truist Park. In addition, 100 Team RWB veterans will hold a giant American flag along the field prior to the National Anthem. Atlanta Braves third baseman Austin Riley is a member of the Team Red, White & Blues’ Advisory Board.

The American flag traveling in the Relay was flown above the battlefields of Iraq while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve and presented to Team RWB. 

Team Red, White & Blue’s Old Glory Relay is a national movement showcasing the strength, grit and commitment of American veterans in support of their well-being. Over the span of 50 days which began on April 1, supporters unite to walk, ruck, run, push and cycle a single American flag more than 4,000 miles from Seattle, Wash. to Atlanta this year.

Team RWB is a nonprofit organization that is shaping up to be America’s leading health and wellness community for veterans. Rooted in an epic display of patriotism, the Old Glory Relay epitomizes what Team RWB is all about — showing our nation’s veterans that their best days are ahead through a strong focus on health and wellness.

“America’s veterans know firsthand that life is a team sport. There’s no better demonstration of that concept than the Old Glory Relay,” said Mike Erwin, Team RWB founder and Executive Director. “As we pass the flag from one great American to the next over its 4,000-mile journey, we are reminded that together we can show veterans that their best days are ahead.”

The Old Glory Relay made its way from the Northwest U.S. down through Southern California, Southern Arizona and New Mexico, Texas, a small portion of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and down to Atlanta. The Relay was made up of many supporters and volunteers from states where the Relay did not pass through this year, such as New York, Indiana and Florida. The supporters traveled hundreds of miles to be able to help get the flag to Atlanta.

The relay group from Team RWB entered Gordon County from Whitfield and made a stop in Sugar Valley at the Sugar Valley Church of God. A solo runner headed south on Hwy. 136, clocking around a 7 minute mile, then passed off the flag along the way to a couple of cyclist who brought the flag to the Calhoun Post Office. The flag was then passed to a couple of runners, who headed down South Wall Street to Kroger, where the group met up with the team from Carry The Load, another veterans support group who were in town for their annual Carry The Load Relay. From Kroger, two cyclists took the flag to Buc-ee’s Calhoun, where the relay ended for the day.

Team RWB is America’s leading Health & Wellness community for veterans. Team RWB exists to guide veterans through their civilian journey with real-life and virtual opportunities focused on building a healthier lifestyle because a strong focus on mental and physical health which is critical to ensuring veterans’ best days are ahead. More than 200,000 members are forging the nation’s leading health and wellness community for veterans.

Recent data from the Wounded Warrior Project Annual Survey shows that veterans are facing chronic pain and sleep challenges which negatively impact their quality of life. Team RWB offers veterans a community with training, programming and events to build a healthier lifestyle, serving as supportive solutions for those with challenges.

“It’s going to be an incredible moment when the Old Glory Relay flag enters Truist Park in celebration of Military Appreciation Day,” said Riley. “Between this event and the Austin Riley Charity Golf Tournament in June, I’m excited to support this organization making a big impact on our nation’s veterans.”

Find out more about Team RWB and the Old Glory Relay online at or download the Team RWB app.

WHO ARE YOU CARRYING? Team from Carry The Load makes stop in Calhoun for annual relay to recognize true meaning of Memorial Day

By: BRANDI OWCZARZ | Gazette Owner-Publisher
Friday, May 19, 2023

Members from Carry the Load's New England Route, Calhoun Police Department, Calhoun Fire Department and Gordon County Fire & Rescue pose for a photo before the almost 2-mile walk for the Carry the Load Relay leg through Calhoun on Thursday, May 18, 2023.

A Relay group from Dallas-based non-profit Carry The Load made a stop in Calhoun Thursday night, May 18, 2023; the group, part of the New England Route of Carry The Load’s National Relay, which is held each May, is headed to Dallas, Texas for a special event to honor Memorial Day.


Carry The Load is a non-profit organization that provides active ways to connect Americans to the sacrifices made daily by our military, veterans, first responders and their families. What started in 2011 by two veteran U.S. Navy SEALs to restore the true meaning of Memorial Day has now grown into a nationwide movement with people volunteering throughout the year to honor and remember our nation’s heroes. The main mission of Carry The Load is to make sure that people know why Memorial Day was established: to honor those who have died in service for their country. Carry The Load provides active ways to honor and remember the nation’s heroes by connecting Americans to the sacrifices made by military, veterans, first responders and their families.

The National Relay consists of five routes that cover 20,000 miles across 48 states. The relay teams walk and/or cycle daily throughout Carry the Load’s Memorial May campaign.


Carry The Load’s New England Relay Manager Andy Medrano has participated with Carry The Load since 2014, participating in the National Relay the past three years.

“I spent 23 years in the Army; I was an Infantry guy and went to Ranger school,” said Medrano. “I did a lot of cool things while I was (enlisted). I retired in 2014, which is when I first started doing Carry the Load and in 2021, I was asked to be on the Relay.”


Medrano’s group consists of anywhere between 7-10 volunteers at a time covering an approximate 3,700 mile journey.


“Our team has been traveling since the third of May,” said Medrano. “We had an event in Long Island, New York, with one of our sponsors, Henry Schein Cares, and did a walk with them before we moved up to Burlington, Vermont, where the relay began. Our route has taken us from Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island and all the New England states. So far, it’s been a very good trip for us. Sometimes you have people who do not understand what our organization is about, so we talk to them and let them know that we’re a non-profit out of Dallas, we support our military veterans and first responders and their families. We also want them to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day, which is remembering those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms that we have today.”


The team walks from about 7 o’clock in the morning to 8 or 9 o’clock in the evening, which is when the walkers recoup and move to the next spot, by bus. The bus, which is wrapped with the images of service members or first responders from areas along the Relay route, honors the sacrifices made by those while serving our country.


“This year, we have four people on each side of the bus that we’re honoring,” said Medrano. “Representing the state of Georgia, (we’re honoring) Specialist Murphy. We actually walked with his parents on his birthday. They told us some stories while we were walking, and it was really great just to have them walk with us because Gold Star families are truly a blessing for us. It’s their day. The great thing about Gold Star families is they talk about their loved one as if they’re still here. That’s great because we never want to forget their names. Once we stop saying their names or forget their name, that’s the second time they’ve passed.”


Spc. Etienne J. Murphy, 22, of Snellville, Georgia, died May 26, 2017 in Al-Hasakah, Syria, of injuries sustained during a vehicle rollover-related incident. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia. He was on his first deployment, according to information from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He enlisted in June 2013; after training at Fort Benning, he served in 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment which is part of the 10th Mountain Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team at Fort Drum, N.Y. In October 2015, Murphy volunteered to serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment, successfully completing airborne school and Ranger Assessment and Selection Program 1. That is when he was assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment, where he served as an anti-tank gunner. His awards and decorations include the Parachutist Badge, the Army Achievement Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the NATO Medal and the Operation Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal with Campaign Star. He was posthumously awarded the Army Commendation Medal.


On Thursday night, the Carry the Load group arrived in Calhoun and was greeted by Team Red, White & Blue’s Old Glory Relay team, who was making its way to Atlanta after a Relay that began in Washington State. The Carry the Load group then met with members of the Calhoun Police Department, Calhoun Fire Department and Gordon County Fire & Rescue before walking the nearly two miles from Kroger to Calhoun Fire Station 1 in downtown Calhoun. Officers with the CPD provided escort for the relay, while members of both CFD and GCF&R put on their full turnout gear and walked alongside the Relay group.


“Our veterans have put their lives on hold and at risk to protect our freedom,” said Calhoun Police Chief Tony Pyle. “I feel as Americans, it is our duty to support these men and women in every way possible, and programs like this allow us to do just that. CPD is proud to play a small part in making this happen."


Upon arriving at the fire station, the Relay group got hot showers and was treated to a meal catered by Monty Erwin and Dub’s High on the Hog.


“Calhoun Fire had 10 members of the department walk the Calhoun leg of Carry the Load in full turnout gear to honor the sacrifice of many who have died in the line of duty. Our department was honored to be able help carry the load of many families who have lost a loved one in service to our country or in service to their community,” said Calhoun Fire Deputy Chief Terry Mills. “Calhoun Fire was honored to host the Carry the Load team at our Headquarters Station for a hot meal provided by Dub’s BBQ and a hot shower before the group continued on to the next leg of their journey. Calhoun Fire thanks all of the citizens who, while driving by our teams walking, said ‘thank you for your service.’ Calhoun firefighters make sacrifices every day to serve this community and the department is proud of all its firefighters and the job they do.”


There will be stops in Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana for the Relay group, with their final destination being Dallas, Texas for the Dallas Memorial March, hosted each year in Carry The Load’s hometown. The March is their flagship event and the culmination of the National Relay; it’s a two-day Memorial Day weekend event honoring service members and their families for the sacrifices they make. All five routes of the National Relay will meet up at the Dallas event.


“The Dallas Memorial Day March will begin on May 29th, the Sunday prior to Memorial Day,” said Medrano. “What happens there is all five Relay Teams culminate two stops prior to Opening Day ceremonies. We’ll get together at (a local) high school with the other relay teams and a couple hundred people walking a five-mile leg. We reach our stop point just prior to the event, at a Chase Bank, where all five Relay Teams will walk in; last year we had about 20,000 people participate and raised just over $2 million dollars.”


This year’s fundraising goal for the organization is $2.25 million dollars. Carry The Load has raised more than $38 million dollars since their formation. More than 93 percent of the funds go towards their three programs: Awareness, Continuum of Care and Education.

Carry The Load’s Continuum of Care program is built upon a strategic collaboration among their corporate and non-profit partners. The program raises much needed awareness and funds to assist with the many issues facing military, veterans, first responders and their families. In addition to healing the nation’s heroes experience by physically walking or volunteering with Carry The Load, peer-to-peer fundraising and corporate support strengthens nationwide services such as counseling, adaptive training, suicide prevention, equine therapy, service dogs, job placements, civilian transition, home improvements, hope for homeless veterans, care for burn victims, educational scholarships for children of the fallen and many other healing services.

One of the Education programs offered by Carry The Load is Carry The Flag, which focuses on the younger generation, teaching them about our nation’s traditions and why they’re important. With Carry The Flag, kids learn more about our nation’s heroes by developing storyboards to honor and remember a hero, giving a presentation on patriotism and learning the history of the American flag.


In their Awareness program, Carry The Load’s mission is rooted in raising awareness for the true meaning of Memorial Day. Each May, people can actively participate in Carry The Load’s Memorial May awareness campaign to make Memorial Day matter again. People can participate by hosting a Carry It Anywhere experience, organize a youth Carry The Flag activity, walk in the National Relay, attend a Rally, fundraise for our nation’s heroes, and take part virtually throughout the month.


For more information on Carry The Load or to donate, visit

GOING RED: Local Keller Williams agency helps the Calhoun Housing Authority in changing lives this RED Day

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Associates of Keller Williams Premier North Georgia, located on North Wall Street in Calhoun, stand in front of a home on Court Street with Calhoun Housing Authority representatives Carol Hatch, Gary Erwin and Toya Washington during Keller Williams RED Day Community Service event on Thursday, May 11.

Justin Childress and the associates of Keller Williams Premier North Georgia, located at 204 North Wall Street in Calhoun, spent the majority of the day on Thursday, May 11, 2023 performing a large community service project in honor of Keller Williams’ RED Day.


RED is an acronym for Renew, Energize and Donate and gives Keller Williams agencies a chance to give back to the local community they serve.


Every second Thursday of May, Keller Williams agents, leadership members and associates step away from daily business duties, proudly donning their red KW gear, and venturing into the communities they serve with those three goals in mind: renew, energize, donate.


This annual day of service took shape in May 2009 in celebration of Keller Williams’ board member Mo Anderson’s birthday. Fourteen years later, it continues to grow in momentum as the Keller Williams family unites under a shared commitment to philanthropy.


“We’ve always been a community service-oriented company; we love serving the community that has supported us since 2015,” said Childress.


Each year, agents choose the project they want to support. In years past, Keller Williams Premier North Georgia helped with a coat closet and performed yard cleanup projects.


This year, Childress again looked to the Calhoun Housing Authority for a referral and was given the idea to help with some outdoor maintenance at the home of Ms. Golden on Court Street. Ms. Golden recently received a CHIP Grant through the Calhoun Housing Authority’s New Foundations Development, a non-profit that performs home rehabilitations within Gordon County to upgrade and expand the local housing inventory. Since its creation in 2013, NFD, with the help of local contractors and the City of Calhoun and Gordon County Building Inspectors, has completed hundreds of home rehabilitation projects for local home owners, especially veterans. New Foundations Development is under the direction of Carol Hatch, the program coordinator.


The money the Golden household receives trough the CHIP funds will go towards a new roof, new HVAC, new flooring and other updates to the home.


But before the home rehab project can begin, the home’s yard needed a lot of work. Weeds had grown up on the side of the home and over the driveway, preventing anyone from parking at the residence.


Keller Williams Premier North Georgia has around 30 associates that serve in this community. On Court Street, some of those local KW Premier North Georgia associates performed yard work, clearedlimbs and debris and cut or trimmed overgrown shrubs and trees. The house was also pressure washed.


“We roll up our sleeves, take a day off from work and just try to make a difference,” said Childress. “We try to make a difference in the community every day, but especially on RED Day.”

Internationally, Keller Williams has 186,000 people supporting the volunteer efforts on Red Day, with more than one million hours of community service performed worldwide on Red Day by Keller Williams’ agents and staff.


For more information on Keller Williams Premier North Georgia, visit their Facebook page at or call 706-625-6535.


For more information on New Foundations Development, visit visit