Every Memorial Day, many war veterans and active duty servicemen and women head to cemeteries around the country. They are there to visit the graves of their fellow servicemen and women that fell in the line of duty.
If you were to take a walk through a cemetery on one of the days following Memorial Day, you might see coins laying on certain tombstones.
It is important that you do not touch those coins as they are there for a very special reason.
Coins are left on tombstones as a sign of respect to the fallen soldier. They show the service member’s family that someone stopped by to pay their respects.
Each coin has a different meaning, and the appropriate type is left on the grave depending on the relationship between the deceased service member and the person leaving the coin.
The coins act as a comfort for the family when they see how many people stopped by the grave site.
A penny simply means that someone visited the grave to pay their respects. Nickels show that the person who left the coin trained or was at boot camp with the deceased service member.
As the coins increase in value, the level of connection to the deceased also increases. Dimes represent soldiers who served together, while quarters mean that the person who left the coin was there when the deceased was killed.
It is said that this tradition became popular around the time of the Vietnam War when tensions were sometimes high regarding the war. It was used as a way of paying respects without directly contacting the deceased’s family.
Every so often, the coins are collected by cemetery workers. The money collected is often used for either upkeep of the cemetery or to pay for the burial costs of veterans.
Dave Taylor, a Vietnam War veteran, always looks forward to putting on his uniform and setting out for the cemetery. He sees it as an honor to leave coins and pay his respects to fallen service members.
After stopping in front of each grave and saying a short sentiment, Taylor sets down the appropriate coin. He salutes and moves on to the next grave.
“It’s a story about life, about sacrifice, and about remembrance,” said Taylor. Remember the sacrifices made by these brave people next time you walk by coins sitting on a tombstone.
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