By June Headley-Greenlaw
I was watching the news this weekend, and a story came on about a child that was honoring veterans. Of course, being a military family, it got my full attention. This was a story about a child in 7th grade that has been working for three years to honor veterans. As I listened to his story, I completely went into the ugly cry! As Carrie Underwood says, “you can’t cry pretty.”
The story on the news was a follow-up with a child they had featured last year. They didn’t dig a lot into the backstory so, of course, I went looking for it and found it on the web. This young boy, his heart and his actions, astound me!
He went to visit his Grandfather’s grave to place a flag and some flowers on Veteran’s Day and noticed that many of the graves didn’t have any flags or flowers. Disturbed by this, he vowed to do something about it. He started raising money by vacuuming floors, and he set a goal to place a flag and flower on the graves of each of the veterans resting in the cemetery where his Grandfather was buried.
His mission grew from there, and he has now honored over 180,000 veterans by placing a flag and red carnation on their graves. He doesn’t stop there. You can read the rest of his story at www.prestonsharp.net.
The story touched me so deeply because I remember the first Christmas after we lost our Marine, Jared Greenlaw. He was only 25 years old when he died in April of 2017. That Christmas, my husband and I donated to an organization called Wreaths Across America. The organization was started in Maine, which is where Jared’s gravesite is located in a Veteran’s cemetery, and their mission is to place wreaths on the graves of veterans across this country. However, we didn’t know if they would specifically get to his grave.
We were devastated that we couldn’t be there to do something ourselves that year because we were in South Carolina, so we ended up calling Jared’s uncle Mark and asking him to do it for us. Without hesitation, he did. We were blessed to have family members close to the cemetery, but the sting of thinking that our son’s grave might be bare for Christmas was overwhelming. It might not seem like a big deal to some, but when the only way you have left to take care of your child is to dress up their grave, believe me, it’s important!
I was touched by the actions of this child so deeply partly because of his age and partly because of his dogged determination. Not many kids his age understand what it means to be a veteran and certainly kids his age have things more fun to do than visiting cemeteries. Yet Preston seems to truly understand the importance of what he is doing. I’m certain that the veterans he is honoring in the cemeteries are just as grateful to Preston as those veterans he’s visiting with that we are blessed to still have among us.
I am proud of this young man and his cause, and I’m hoping that you will be too. If you’d like to help him carry out his mission, read more about him, purchase a t-shirt or a challenge coin, or donate funds for him to purchase more flags and flowers for our veterans by visiting his website at www.prestonsharp.net.