Meaning Behind Coins and Denominations on Headstones in New England
I was catching up with a friend of mine, and she mentioned that over Veterans Day, she visited her grandparents at their cemetery site. While she was there, she started chatting with a woman visiting her husband who passed away not long after he returned from Afghanistan.
As they were chatting, the woman placed a quarter on his headstone. And that is where this article is coming from, because now I know why we see pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters on headstones.
While researching this, I discovered that these coins are traditions for honoring military and non-military gravesites to indicate someone was there to pay their respects.
This tradition of leaving coins with military men and women can be traced as far back as the Roman Empire, according to The Wounded Warrior Project, when soldiers would insert a coin into the mouth of the fallen to ensure they could cross the River Styx into the afterlife.
This practice was popularized during the Vietnam War as a way to show respect without actually reaching out to the family. This is because it was such a controversial war, according to The Wounded Warrior Project. The coins were a way of saying that you appreciate the soldier's service while avoiding uncomfortable arguments over politics relating to the war.
Let's start with military headstones.
This means you visited the soldier to pay your respects.
This means you trained at boot camp together.
This means you served with the soldier.
This means you were with them when they passed away.
For non-military friends and family members' headstones, VC News says that a penny means you're paying your respect, a nickel means you went to school together, a dime means you worked together, and a quarter means you were with them when they passed away.
The coins are collected by the cemetery at the end of each month and used for cemetery maintenance, the cost of burial for soldiers, and the care for indigent soldiers.
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