KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — More than 5,000 veterans and civilian supporters are carrying an American flag from New York City to Atlanta. Nathan Smith, a U.S. Army National Guard veteran, carried the flag 18 miles through Knoxville.

He started his trek at 7 a.m. Tuesday. He ran from 4104 Old Knoxville Highway in Rockford to 1409 Maryville Pike in Knoxville for his first stretch.

“It’s cool being part of something that big that supports other people,” Smith said.

His run started off a little rainy and cold, with a lot of hills. “We rucked it through UT campus and downtown Knoxville. It’s just beautiful going down through there,” Smith said.

Smith said he chose to ruck, or add more weight for his run and walk, so it was even more of a physical challenge for him. He said getting out and active is one reason behind the Old Glory Relay, and what Team Red, White and Blue does in general.

“It’s just getting people to be active. That’s going to help both their physical and mental health. Getting involved with the community, with other veterans, we’re supporting one another, but we’re also getting people out,” Smith said.

Smith said he wanted to participate in the relay to show support for people who lost their lives on Sept. 11, and to show support for veterans who have fought against terrorism since that day.

“It’s just neat. One, honoring those who died at that tragic event, but also remembering and honoring those who have served since,” Smith said.

Smith said he’s trying to give back to other veterans, and he does so through Team Red, White and Blue. He wants other veterans to know about the group, so they’re aware people who went through similar scenarios are trying to help.

“There’s a camaraderie amongst veterans. A lot of times people who haven’t served understand. You go through things that people, you know, just can’t fully understand if you haven’t done it. And so it’s really important to be there for one another,” Smith said.

He said it’s also good to see the community show support while on his run.

“Hearing other people honk, waive, whatever it is. We’ve had a couple of people stop us and ask us what we’re doing. It’s really neat seeing that positive feedback from the community. It really makes you feel supported and encouraged,” Smith said.

Nathan Smith in front of his place of work. It was one pit stop he made while walking/running his 18 miles.

His goal was to run or walk about 18 miles through Knoxville, but he said in total Old Glory would be carried about 43 miles on Tuesday. Although his legs were tired by mile 18, Smith said it was a fun experience.

“It’s really neat that we’re passing down the same Old Glory, you know, throughout the southeast,” Smith said.

The flag will make its way to Atlanta by Veteran’s Day.