Grave injustice: Park restores dignity to fallen Americans

Updated 3:20 PM ET, Sat May 27, 2017

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(CNN)The first time Carol Hull set foot on Poplar Grove National Cemetery near Petersburg, Virginia, she was focused on a single grave -- that of her great-great-grandfather.

But as she continued to visit the 9-acre cemetery, the gratification of finding him grew into a festering anger.
The burial grounds were in disheartening disrepair.
The grave markers for identified Civil War soldiers, which had once stood upright, years ago had been removed, cut shorter, and laid flat on the ground. Many of the headstones were damaged and broken.
Hull was outraged. "His life was every bit as important as those (buried) at Antietam, Gettysburg and Arlington," she said.
Carol Hull during her first visit to pay homage to her soldier ancestor.
Hull's great-great-grandfather and the thousands of soldiers who lie around him in Poplar Grove recently were granted that respect.
After years of decline, the cemetery was rededicated late last month following a comprehensive rehab. The story of the effort to correct a wrong is being told this Memorial Day weekend with tours. Officials concede that no other National Park Service cemetery has required this level of work.
But it was a long time coming.

How the cemetery fell into disrepair

Water covers graves after a rainfall before the rehabilitaton project began in late 2015.
Poplar Grove's plight was the result, at least in part, of misguided good intentions and lack of resources.
In 1933, the care of the cemetery was transferred from the War Department to the National Park Service, which had little experience in managing cemeteries.
To save on grass cutting costs and to create a more parklike appearance in the cemetery, officials decided during the Great Depression to alter the headstones. Some 2,300 upright markers were made into flat stones, and about 3,400 blocks for the unknown were sunk into the ground, increasing the risk of damage and wear. In some instances, multiple soldiers are buried in one plot.