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"National disgrace": Retired Navy captain describes naval cemetery in disrepair

VALLEJO, Calif. -- The 160-year-old Mare Island Naval Cemetery in Vallejo has fallen into such disrepair, one retired Navy captain called it "a national disgrace."

"You can see headstones are physically crumbling down, completely broken into pieces," Matt Saintsing of ConnectingVets.com, a CBS Radio site, told KCBS-AM in Los Angeles. "Plants are overgrowing into fences, without any kind of maintenance or repair."

Saintsing wrote about the Mare Island Naval Cemetery after 76-year-old retired Navy captain Ralph Parrott and his wife paid a visit and were appalled by the conditions.

The cemetery, dating back to 1854, was given National Historic Landmark status in 1975. Mare Island is the final resting place of three Medal of Honor recipients and Anna Key Turner, the fifth child of Francis Scott Key, who penned "The Star Spangled Banner."

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A view of a gravestone for Medal of Honor recipient William Halford at the Mare Island Naval Cemetery in Vallejo, Calif. Ralph Parrott

After the shipyard closed in the 1990s, ownership of the cemetery was turned over to the City of Vallejo. The public was given access to the cemetery in 2008, three weeks after the city declared bankruptcy.

Currently, the cemetery has limited upkeep by the City of Vallejo and by Myrna Hayes of the nonprofit Mare Island Heritage Trust.

When asked about possible solutions, Saintsing said there is none right now. "In fact, Ralph Parrott had a meeting with the VA to help get more funding for this and he says he was blown off. The VA says this is a City of Vallejo and State of California problem, not the national government," he said.

You can listen to KCBS-AM's full report below:

CBS Radio's ConnectingVets.com reached out for comment from the City of Vallejo and the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration.

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