Every 10 year old in America knows where our nation’s heroes find their final resting place-the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. Just outside of Washington, the National Cemetery contains the gravesites of some of our countries most revered and honors those who have served in our name.

imageHowever, in early 2010 the Cemetery came under fire from the U.S Department of Defense for a large number of mismanagement issues, including but not limited to mislabeling of graves, multiple bodies in single graves, and mismanagement of cremated remains. After a year-long series of articles and an in-depth investigation by the Washington Post, the national dream of Arlington as a pristine and well-run temple to our nation’s sacrifices.

A recent article by the L.A Times piqued my interest on this subject, and when I decided to take a look at their website, I was stunned. One of the main problems found by the Department of Defense is that Arlington National Cemetery is actually run by so many different groups that they couldn’t make any serious reform decisions-and it looks like none of these groups found time to fix up the online presence of the Cemetery.

Take a look for yourself at a screen capture of http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/, the official site of Arlington National Cemetery.

This post could go on for thousands of words on the problems with this site; beyond it’s extremely outdated look, the fact that it doesn’t even fit the full browser window, and the Contact Us page being composed of a phone number and mailing address, the site is rife with areas for improvement. This is not only an example of how a large institution can lose track of managing its online presence-this is in fact a disservice to the families and loved ones of our nation’s most honored.

The counterpoint to correcting these problems is sheer bureaucracy; the Cemetery holds thousands of graves, has continuously updated news, events and has split leadership which has shown it’s inability to react positively to change. However, the actions of an enterprising 17 year old have shown that a more beneficial online presence for the Arlington National Cemetery can be built easily and effectively.

imageAs profiled by the Los Angeles Times in late April, Ricky Gilleland is the one person who has decided to do something about this. The 17 year old from Stafford, VA heard about the Cemetery’s paper record system and decided he could fix it. What he came up with is preserveandhonor.com, a site that aims to “Honor America’s heroes buried in Arlington Cemetery who served their country in support of the Global War on Terror”.

The site contains records of each and every lost life in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are entombed in Arlington. By searching the database, you can view the grave number, name, rank, military branch, birth and death dates, and Awards, and link to their official obituary. By contrast, on the official site, there is no database search capability. Perhaps the most important element of this site is the photos of the graves themselves. Now, family members, loved ones and inquiring minds from all over the country and the world can view every single grave stone from the 21st century wars. This single addition makes this archive head and shoulders above anything put together so far by the actual government system behind Arlington. And for that, the nation is grateful.

Visit preserveandhonor.com to experience the true cost of war in this century, and next time you see a government website underperforming, just think of how you much change one person can make.