Imagine yourself with flowers in tow as you stride across the hallowed ground to your destination. After a short brisk walk, you arrive and crouch down to place the flowers in front of their headstone. A tear falls from your eye as you begin to fill them in on all they’ve missed recently.
Distant whispers steal your attention, as you look around to find an older man in uniform standing next to a grave. You watch as he places a small item on top of the headstone and walks away. Curiosity overpowers your mind, as you subconsciously redirect yourself to where the older man just left.
When you arrive, you find a dime resting atop a headstone that reads ‘Son. Brother. Soldier.’
Suddenly you have an urge to speak to the older man in uniform, but you realize he has left. Thinking of the fallen soldier and the dime, you make your way back to your car and out of the cemetery.
The Tradition of Tributes
From ancient Egypt to the Roman Empire, humans have left tributes and artifacts at gravesites of loved ones for centuries. Even in modern times, this tradition is kept alive from culture to culture.
In the United States, you can find coins strewn across headstones of fallen soldiers dating as far back as the Vietnam War. This tradition became popular during the war because of the political turmoil the country was experiencing. Soldiers returned home to a hostile environment as many citizens did not support the war.
Men began leaving coins at headstones of fallen comrades to signify to the family that they had stopped by to pay respects without making matters worse. Today this tradition still lives, as veterans and active service military members visit the graves of their fallen friends.
While this practice often takes place around Memorial Day, you can often find headstones adorned with coins all year around. Each coin holds a significant meaning to the individual who left it since higher value coins signify a deeper connection to the deceased.
If you find a penny perched upon a headstone, that is simply a sign someone stopped by to pay their respects.
A soldier or veteran who attended boot camp with the deceased will typically leave a nickel, while those who served in combat with them will leave behind a dime. Quarters hold the most emotion, as they signify the leaver witnessed the fallen soldiers death.
There is one token held dear to many service members and occasionally is found hiding in the mixture of the other coins perched atop a gravestone. Challenge coins are typically are given as a sign of a job well done and cherished by the soldiers who receive one. Veterans and active members have been known to leave challenge coins if they were comrades-in-arms of the deceased.
Cemetery workers will eventually collect the coins and use them as donations for maintenance and to fund burial costs for other veterans.
So start collection pennies and next Memorial Day celebrate your freedom by remembering those who fought for it.