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.

Image: Sharp placing a flag on a marker“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.”

Image: Sharp with VA leadership and volunteers

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.

image of Shawn Graham, NCA public affairs specialistShawn D. Graham is a public affairs specialist for VA’s National Cemetery Administration.

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Published on Jan. 31, 2018

Estimated reading time is 2.6 min.

Views to date: 180


  1. susan February 15, 2018 at 10:17 pm

    what a wonderful article! good job young man!!!

  2. Karen Kinsley February 4, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    I know it means a lot. So thanks kid.

  3. William G Stamper February 2, 2018 at 9:51 pm

    My sincere thanks, toward all that you do and inspired to do for the veterans everywhere and any one, You see I am a veteran also, I served twice 3 years active duty and Vietnam, second in the Army National guard there to Desert Storm/ Saudi Arabia.and any one who shows that much faith and concern I salute you as we all veterans do. Thank you, thank you, and thank you. William G Stamper Tucson Arizona.

  4. Richard James February 2, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    I should give that young man my medals, he done more for us vet than I did…..

  5. Dale Nicholas February 2, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    I love that boy. He should go a long way in his life as a true patriot. God bless him and God bless our veterans. I am one of many that are getting to the age of completion. Hopefully Preston will remember me also. Thanks Preston.

  6. Viet Nam veteran February 2, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    Thank you Shawn Graham for publishing this article…very inspiring!

  7. Richard C. Bareford February 2, 2018 at 10:42 am

    How ironic that the VA lauds individual efforts to honor veterans’ graves while enforcing capricious and arbitrary policies preventing thousands of veterans from ever receiving their entitlement. Unrelated persons are prohibited from applying for veterans’ headstones, grave markers and memorials. There was no applicant restriction of any kind from 1879 to 2012 when the VA first began enforcing a next-of-kin-only provision. On April 1, 2016 the VA published a modified rule once again permitting unrelated applicants but only on behalf of veterans who completed their service prior to April 16, 1917 (the day America entered WWI). However, this change preserved the family member only provision for memorial markers regardless of service date. The VA is well aware that veterans often die estranged from their families or with no descendants or with relations who could simply care less. But the VA is fine with this as long as it cuts down on applications.

  8. Andy scortino February 2, 2018 at 9:39 am

    great work son, in spite of all the COWARDS out there like the nfl, and it’s owners protecting the ones who kneel and disrespect the VETERANS and the FLAG. I know your parents are very proud of you. A 28 year veteran thanks you.

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