Image above from ABCChicago
If you see loose coins floating around a graveyard, don’t pick them up. While Memorial Day allows the country to honor our fallen and those who have sacrificed for our country collectively, placing coins on the headstone allows for a more individualized and intimate memorial.
What each coin represents
A Penny – someone has visited the grave and paid their respects
A Nickel – someone who attended bootcamp with the fallen has paid their respects
A Dime – someone who served alongside them in duty has paid their respects
A Quarter – someone who was there when they died has paid their respects
Although coins used to honor victims dates back to the Roman Empire, the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary cites this custom to have its origins after the Vietnam War.
They state, “In the US, this practice became common during the Vietnam war, due to the political divide in the country over the war, leaving a coin was seen as a more practical way to communicate that you had visited the grave than contacting the soldier’s family, which could devolve into an uncomfortable argument over politics relating to the war.”
It was symbolic of the living comrades to later buy them a beer or a deck of cards once they reunited in the afterlife.
The money left on the gravestone eventually gets picked up and used for graveyard upkeep or burying veterans whose family needs financial assistance.
So save your pennies and loose change and honor our Veterans in one of the coolest customs yet….