HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Just below the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, at the bottom of a ravine, John Fuller made an eerie find during a recent hike.
"They were obviously war memorials. They were dated in the 40s. There are ranks and service branches named on some of them," he said. "I saw one and I continued to move along and saw more."
Fuller snapped close to two dozen photos of the gravestone markers, documenting each one and being careful not to disturb the broken pieces.
"I didn't want to touch them. They don't belong to me," he said. "They belong to a graveyard somewhere."
Hawaii News Now alerted the national cemetery to the discovery, and officials started investigating.
"We were very surprised. This is a very rare occurrence," said Gene Maestas, Punchbowl Public Affairs spokesman.
On Wednesday morning, cemetery caretakers collected all of the markers.
"They went down there with ropes and harnesses and they were able to excavate into the ravine and pull out the pieces," Maestas said.
He said it's not clear how the headstones got there.
One theory: In the 1980s, the land directly above the ravine was used to store old grave markers that were damaged and needed to be replaced.
"We're estimating at this point that quite possibly some of the markers and tablets actually slid down the backside of the crater in the ravine," he said.
After all of the headstones were recovered, they were crushed, which is standard protocol.
"We don't want to save them because we don't want them to be reused," Maestas said. "We want to honor our veterans and we don't want them to end up in a different location that would be improperly displaced."
Mobile users: See a slideshow of the grave markers by clicking here.