On Veterans Day 2015, Preston Sharp, then 10 years old, went to visit his grandfather’s grave at a cemetery in Redding, California. George Sharp was a U.S. Navy veteran. Preston placed flowers and a U.S. flag on his grave. He did this to honor his grandfather’s memory. But Preston saw that the graves of other veterans were bare. It moved him to take action. “All veterans should be honored for what they did and continue to do for our freedom,” Preston, now 13, told TIME for Kids.
That day, Preston set a goal. He would pay tribute to all people who served in the U.S. military. He planned to do this by marking their final resting place with flags and flowers. But Preston needed money to do this. So he and his mom began a GoFundMe campaign.
Preston has also started the Flag and Flower Challenge. Participants are asked to place flags and flowers on veterans’ graves. They’re encouraged, while graveside, to speak that veteran’s name. “Saying a veteran’s name aloud keeps their spirit alive,” Preston says.
Preston has placed more than 180,000 flags and flowers on veterans’ graves. He has done this in 22 states. His activism caught the attention of President Donald Trump. Earlier this year, Trump honored Preston in his State of the Union address.
Preston also impressed Randy Reeves. He is the U.S. under secretary for Memorial Affairs. Together, they visited veterans’ graves at Annapolis National Cemetery, in Maryland. “I was proud to see a young person so committed to honoring veterans,” Reeves says.
Preston’s new goal is to place a flag and a flower at the graves of veterans in all 50 states. You can join the effort. This year, Veterans Day is November 12. “Veterans risked their lives for us,” Preston says. “We need to do our part in honoring them all.”