Old Glory crosses Western Pennsylvania en route from Boston to San Diego

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Lisa Popovich was met with loud cheers and chants of “USA” at Penn-Trafford High School football stadium Thursday.

She walked around the track waving an American flag that is making its way across the country as part of the Old Glory Relay. It was a special opportunity for her — Popovich’s father, who died in February, served with the Navy during the Korean War.

“I thought what a wonderful way for me to honor his memory,” the high school nurse said. “It was very special.”

The Old Glory Relay made its way through about 70 miles of Somerset, Westmoreland and Allegheny counties Thursday, starting in Jennerstown and finishing at Heinz Field on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.

The flag passed through Greensburg and Pittsburgh’s South Side as part of a nationwide event that started on Sept. 11 in Boston. The 62-day, 4,300-mile relay will visit 24 states before ending in San Diego on Veterans Day.

The fifth-annual relay is a fundraiser held by Florida nonprofit Team Red, White and Blue, whose mission is to connect veterans with their communities.

At Penn-Trafford High, about 1,200 students traded in their green and gold for red, white and blue as they sat in the stands and cheered. Also cheering from the sidelines was Popovich’s mother, Sally Wareham. She wore flag earrings, a sweatshirt and a scarf and brought with her 11 more flags. She and her husband, Joe, lived in Pitcairn but had moved to Penn Township in the last few years before his death.

“Oh my god, I was amazed,” Wareham said after a brief ceremony. “So wonderful, it is overwhelming.”

The high school band followed Popovich around the track and stopped in the middle of the football field to play the national anthem. About 50 members of the public attended.

Popovich handed the flag over to Blake Danowski, a Penn Township police officer, to continue its journey west. A flag folding ceremony at Heinz Field with World War II veteran Walter Blanko and former Steelers player Rocky Bleier, a Vietnam War veteran, concluded the day. The flag continues its journey Friday to Youngstown, Ohio.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter @byrenatta.