Using only a a clunky camera and the Motorola Xoom he got for his 17th birthday, Ricky Gilleland has succeeded where the Army failed: He has created the only digitized record of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. 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.
An investigation by the Army inspector general concluded in June that at least 211 graves were mislabeled. Top brass were fired. And the management of the 147-year-old American landmark, where about 300,000 fallen troops rest, suddenly seemed as chaotic as its uniform lines of unadorned white markers are orderly.
Cemetery operations were declared antiquated. Arlington still relies on paper records and index cards to maintain 200 acres where presidents, astronauts, freed slaves and heroes of every American war lie. "One fire, flood or coffee spill away" from irreplaceable loss, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) warned.
While discussing Arlington's outdated record-keeping over dinner one night last summer, Ricky — who had just gotten an A in his Programming 1 class at school — announced, "I can fix that."
You can read the full story by Faye Fiore in the Los Angeles Times at http://goo.gl/daCSW
My thanks to Tim Ryeland for telling me about this story.
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