It was a chilly February morning at Boise’s Dry Creek Cemetery, but it might as well have been a Veterans Day in November.
Preston Sharp, 12, and hundreds of others gathered Saturday to honor veterans as part of Preston’s Veterans Flag and Flower Challenge. Sharp is from California and has set a 50-state goal of posting flags and laying down flowers at the graves of veterans. This weekend’s state was Idaho, and even he was surprised at the amount of support for his program.
“When I was flying here, I had no clue there would be this (many) people,” Preston said. “It’s insane.”
Preston started Flag and Flower in 2015 after visiting his grandfather’s grave and noticing a lack of decorations on the surrounding graves of veterans. What began as a personal mission to visit graves in California has become a nationwide challenge to honor veterans. Preston has already helped place more than 40,000 flags in six different states.
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“I think it’s neat,” said Dylan McMaster, a Boy Scout scoutmaster who brought a few of his scouts to participate Saturday. “(He) tried to create a movement ... it’s a great thing to see.”
Preston’s challenge has gained him notoriety and a level of celebrity. He was a guest at President Donald Trump's State of the Union address last month, something which he still has trouble coming to grips with. Preston stood next to first lady Melania Trump.
“When I started (this), I had no idea that I would ever meet the president,” Preston said. “It was amazing.”
Though he takes pictures with fellow volunteers and hands out the occasional autograph now, Preston’s goal remains the same as it did when he started his challenge.
“Honor veterans every day, and not just on a holiday,” he said.