ARLINGTON, Va. (WUSA) -- For the past 15 months, artist Chris Demarest has been working at Arlington National Cemetery on a project entitled "The Greatest Generation, A Visual Tribute," a finely detailed look at the men and women who served in World War Two.

Demarest said the exhibit, which he's doing for free, began in part as a loving tribute to his father, a WW II veteran who's buried at Arlington.

But, according to Demarest, the project has far surpassed even his own expectations, largely because of a six year-old girl.

That's because soon after Demarest started the project, that six year-old was with her parents at Arlington watching Demarest paint.

Demarest said the girl seemed a little bored so he offered her some paper and pencil, and when she was finished drawing, Demarest taped one of her pictures on what was then an empty wall next to his workstation, and then he went on vacation for a week.

"I left some material here and I added a note, 'feel free to add to the wall," Demarest said.

When he got back from vacation, that once-empty wall was literally covered with all kinds of pictures and messages to U.S. troops past and present, from people of every age and from all over the country, who had stopped by the exhibit when Demarest was gone.

Demarest said so far about 500 people have written or drawn something for what he now calls the "wall of thanks." A wall that Demarest said turned an incredibly rewarding project into perhaps the most rewarding of his entire career.

"No question, no question, yeah, this has been amazing," Demarest said.

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