Ricky Gilleland, a tech-savvy 11th-grader, has created the only digitized record of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
Reporting from Arlington, Va.—
Rosemary Brown is standing over the grave of her son at Arlington National Cemetery when someone catches her eye. It's a boy in khaki shorts and muddy shoes, juggling a clunky camera and the Motorola Xoom he got for his 17th birthday five days earlier.
"May I ask what you're doing?" Brown inquires. The boy begins to peck at the Xoom tablet, and in seconds the image that Brown has come all the way from Cartwright, Okla., to see fills the screen. It's the white marble headstone of Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Jason L. Brown, killed by small-arms fire in Afghanistan three years ago this day. Her face brightens.
"Most of Jason's family and friends are in Oklahoma and Texas. For them to be able to see his grave…," she says, her voice breaking.
Richard "Ricky" Gilleland III — 11th-grader and Junior Future Business Leaders of America computer ace — has succeeded where the Army failed: He has created the only digitized record of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans laid to rest at Arlington.
His website, preserveandhonor.com, is a reverent catalog of the fallen, and one young man's response to a scandal of Army mismanagement, mismarked graves and unmarked remains that has rocked this hallowed place for two years.