Twelve-year-old Preston Sharp was originally inspired to recognize Veterans buried at private cemeteries in his hometown of Redding, California. It didn’t take long before his efforts expanded to surrounding communities, and now in as many states as possible. Sharp says that people should not only recognize Veterans on holidays, but also every day.
After seeing his story last September, VA senior leadership saw the shared mission of honoring Veterans every day and asked for Sharp and his family to come to Washington D.C., to meet others charged with the same mission.
“It is so humbling to see how Preston, at a young age, understands how important it is to honor our Veterans, said Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves. “His solemn act of placing an American flag at their gravesites reminds us all of the weight of sacrifice and should serve as an inspiration to youth and adults alike.”
VA staff and Reeves again welcomed and volunteered alongside Sharp and his family Saturday, Jan. 27 at Annapolis National Cemetery.
Over the last two years, Sharp has organized the placement of more than 40,000 flags and red carnations at cemeteries, including Quantico National Cemetery in September 2017 and Eagle Point National Cemetery in December 2017.
Sharp’s enduring passion and commitment to Veterans is an inspiration to many, including VA senior leaders.
“Preston, through his leadership is setting the example for other children and adults on what it means to serve others through the work he does,” Scott Blackburn VA’s executive in charge for information and technology and chief information officer said. “The leadership qualities and maturity he has at such a young age are incredibly impressive. Preston lives the VA of mission of caring for those who have ‘borne the battle.’”
Blackburn, who attended both ceremonies with Sharp at Quantico and Annapolis National Cemeteries, said the young Veteran advocate is a living reminder of why this country is so great and why the future is so bright.
“Both times I brought my children out there to participate,” he said. “Each time they went kicking and screaming, then had a great time, and left completely inspired.”
Preston Sharp, center left, poses with Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves and team members from Baltimore National Cemetery (BNC), during a ceremony hosted at Annapolis National Cemetery Jan. 27.
Sharp’s efforts to honor Veterans were recently recognized by President Trump, as he was invited as a guest at the president’s State of the Union speech last night. He sat in the gallery with First Lady Melania Trump during the speech.
Sharp, through his Flag and Flower Challenge, has been placing flags and flowers on the graves of Veterans since Veterans Day 2015. He began doing so after visiting his U.S. Navy Veteran grandfather’s grave, only to discover that there were no flags placed on the graves of Veterans. To learn more about Sharp, please click here.
Shawn D. Graham is a public affairs specialist for VA’s National Cemetery Administration.