Ricky Gilleland created a database website for Arlington National Cemetery
STAFFORD, Va. (WUSA) - "One father had to identify his son who'd been dead for two years by his tattoo. I can't imagine that," said Ricky Gilleland.
After the 16-year-old heard about the hundreds of mismanaged and mis-marked grave sites at Arlington National Cemetery, he decided to do something to help.
"A cemetery that has more than 300,000 graves, still using index cards? Ridiculous," he said.
Ricky comes from a military family. His brothers are in the Air Force, his dad the Army, his step dad is Retired Navy, and his great-great-great-grandfather fought in the Battle of Gettysburg.
He told his mom he wanted to build a website to honor those who died in war on terror.
"I thought if anyone could do, it would be Ricky," said Elisabeth Van Dyk, Ricky's mom.
He and his mom spent every weekend over the summer at Arlington National Cemetery taking pictures of the front and back of the gravesites in section 60 where the most recent are buried. He formed a database and turned it into an easy to use website.
On www.PreserveandHonor.com, you can search by year, military branch, and name: first, last or even middle to find someone. The site tells you exactly where the person is buried and links to another website that includes obituaries and pictures.
And now, a blog feature allows loved ones to post tributes to them.
"This way, they're always remembered as people. Never a number. Always people," said Gilleland.
Ricky's website only includes the nearly 750 servicemen and women killed since September 11, 2001. He's open to the idea of putting all 400,000 of Arlington graves on the site, but says he'd need a lot of volunteers to help.
Ricky says the site is not for sale, and he won't sell ads on it either because he does not want to profit off of others' tragedy.
Written by Peggy Fox
9NEWS NOW & wusa9.com