Meet Preston.

| 4 min read Boy smiling and sitting in the grass

“It has been awesome. It’s just amazing that I can do something for a veteran.” Three years ago on Veterans...

“It has been awesome. It’s just amazing that I can do something for a veteran.”
Three years ago on Veterans Day, 10-year-old Preston Sharp went with his mom to visit his grandfather’s grave. When he arrived at the cemetery, he expected to see flags and flowers at the veterans’ graves. But there were none to be found. As the day wore on, he grew more and more frustrated. So that night, Preston decided he would do something about it-and started a nationwide movement.
Preston’s grandfather served in the U.S. Navy and died before his grandson’s birth. But that didn’t stop his grandfather from making a lasting impression on Preston’s life.

“I didn’t get to meet him, but I heard stories about him.” says Preston. “He sounded like a really funny and loving person.”

Through those stories, Preston developed a deep respect for his grandfather and the military.

So when Preston arrived at the cemetery on Veterans Day in 2015 to find not a single flag, it was a slight not just to his grandfather but to all veterans.

“I thought that there would be flags on the grave sites, but I didn’t see any. It was heartbreaking, and I got really frustrated,” says Preston.

“But my mom told me that if I see something wrong, I should do something about it-not just complain about it.”

That night when Preston and his mom, April, returned home, he told her he had a plan. He was going to place a flag and flower at every veteran’s grave in the cemetery to honor their service. April asked him how he was going to afford the flags and flowers. He said, “I’m going to start a GoFundMe.”

“So we took a picture and started the GoFundMe for Flags & Flowers for Vets that evening,” says April. “It took a while, but we were able to afford everything for the first cemetery, which had over 4,000 veterans.”

From there, Preston visited every small cemetery between his hometown of Redding, California, and the state capital, Sacramento. At every grave site, he cleared off weeds, cleaned the stones, placed a flag and flower, and thanked them by name for their service. Preston believes that it is important to say their name aloud because “a veteran’s name not said out loud is a veteran forgotten.”
He also began visiting veterans homes with his family to meet living veterans and hear their stories. On one visit around Christmas in 2016, Preston met a man named Tim and noticed that he had several pictures of a dog across his wall. He asked who the dog was and what happened to him.
“Tim teared up and said the dog’s name was Rusty, and he lived in Oregon five hours away,” says Preston. “Immediately, I thought, ‘I know I’m doing Flags & Flowers and all that, but it would be great if I could help living veterans, too. I’d rather adopt this dog for Christmas than get a new laptop.'”
Rusty now lives happily with Preston and his family, and Tim drops by regularly to visit.
Two and a half years after starting his GoFundMe, Preston is now 12 years old, has raised over $50,000, and has placed flags and flowers on over 50,000 veterans’ graves in 10 states. But he’s not done yet.
Preston continues to raise money through his GoFundMe to visit veterans’ graves across the country. On average, it costs $3 per grave site, and his goal is to honor 32,000 more veterans this summer. He hopes to raise at least $96,000 to make that dream possible.
Preston also started the Flag and Flower Challenge, which asks people to honor a veteran’s grave with a flag and flower, share on social media, and tag someone else to keep the challenge going. April estimates that over 5,000 people have participated so far.
Ultimately, Preston hopes to convince all cemeteries in the United States to honor veterans, not just on Memorial Day but every day. Until then, he’ll continue traveling the country to thank veterans and inspiring others to do the same.
“It’s just really cool that I’m getting more people to honor veterans,” says Preston. “I’ll do anything to make a veteran happy.”