Veterans Day Luminary Ceremony planned at Poplar Grove Cemetery

By: Sherry Williams Kidd | Twitter: @DinwiddieMonitr
Posted: November 8, 2018 | 1:40 p.m. 

VIRGINIA – Poplar Grove National Cemetery will conduct its annual Luminary Ceremony on Saturday, November 10. The annual ceremony is conducted each year on or around Veterans Day, November 11, in memory of our nation’s fallen heroes. 

There will be a specific focus at this year’s moving Luminary Ceremony in special recognition of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

“Staff members at Petersburg National Battlefield look forward to participating in the annual Luminary program at Poplar Grove National Cemetery because it gives us a chance to honor American soldiers, past and present, each Veterans Day weekend,” said Ann Blumenschine, Park Ranger, Petersburg National Battlefield. “In fact, we would have difficulty even providing this program if it weren’t for the assistance of soldiers from neighboring Fort Lee. The troops, in the past, have helped light the over 6,000 candles that illuminate the cemetery grounds, where soldiers from the Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, and Korean Wars are buried. We have also received assistance from local Scout troops and other volunteers which truly makes this program a community effort and event.”  

Poplar Grove National Cemetery, Petersburg National Battlefield, will honor all veterans, past, and present, by literally shedding light on the gravesites of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in order to defend their country. The Annual Luminary program at Poplar Grove National Cemetery, will begin at 5:30 p.m., and ends at 8 p.m. This year’s event honors all fallen heroes on these hallowed grounds, but will provide special recognition of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, and give special focus on the many stories of World War I soldiers who found their final resting place at Poplar Grove. The annual ceremony is always somber, reverent, thought-provoking, and deeply moving. 

“When all the candles are lit, it’s an amazing sight,” said Blumenschine. “To add to the atmosphere, the haunting Taps will be played by a bugler and a bagpiper. We hope folks in the community will come experience this moving program.”

Due to space limitations, there will be no parking available at Poplar Grove National Cemetery. Park staff, volunteers, and visitors can park at Richard Bland College in Prince George, where a free shuttle will provide transportation to and from the cemetery. 

The first shuttle will depart from Richard Bland College at 4 p.m., and will make continuous round- trips back-and-forth, to-and-from the cemetery, with the last shuttle departing Poplar Grove at 8:15 p.m. 

Visitors are encouraged to bring flashlights to help avoid stepping on tree roots. This event may be canceled due to inclement weather. 

For additional information, including program status or to register as a volunteer, please contact Park Ranger Tracy Chernault by telephone at (804) 732-3531, extension 200, or by email at Tracy_Chernault@nps.gov. Those signed up to volunteer to help with the candle-lighting, are asked to bring their own lighter.

“One of our main goals during the Luminary program is to tell the stories of some of the soldiers buried at Poplar Grove,” said Blumenschine. “We will have Rangers and volunteers positioned at individual grave sites reading historic letters related to that particular soldier. This activity reminds us all that the person buried in that grave was not just a man in uniform, but someone’s loved one.”

This is a community event, which would not be possible without the assistance of personnel from Fort Lee Army Post, local Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops, Richard Bland College, and the National Park Service volunteers. The National Park Service thanks all those who donate their time and efforts to provide public programs. 

Poplar Grove National Cemetery was established in 1866. Prior to the Civil War, the land where the cemetery now exists belonged to Reverend Thomas B. Flowers. During the Civil War, the future cemetery grounds were used as a campground by the 50th New York Engineers during the Siege of Petersburg. 

This powerful evening program at Poplar Grove National Cemetery includes each of the men’s graves being marked with a luminary candle, the haunting playing of Taps, and selected stories of Soldiers who laid down their lives for their beliefs. 

There are close to 6,200 soldiers buried in the cemetery. Sadly, however, only 2,139 of these men, brothers, husbands, friends, sons, fathers, uncles, boyfriends, and heroes have ever been positively identified. 

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