The tradition of leaving a token at a person’s grave can be traced throughout human history, and the tradition of leaving a coin on the headstones of military personnel can be traced back to the Roman Empire. It’s a legend that was founded in truth, and although the meanings of each different coin change from time to time, the sentiment is the same: “I was here.”
Paying respect to memory of a loved one or a friend, leaving coins became common during the Vietnam war. It was sometimes safer to leave a coin instead of contacting the family – due to the divide in the country at the time – and avoided the politics altogether.A penny simply means that you have visited and respect their sacrifice. Leaving a nickel says that you trained in boot camp together with the deceased. A dime means that you served together. A quarter indicates that you were there when that person was killed.
Every so often, the coins are collected and donated in the soldier’s memories towards maintaining the cemetery or even helping to pay burial costs of other veterans.
If you see coins on a gravestone, don’t touch them, and remember the sacrifice made by the person being remembered.
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