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Old 03 June 2012, 04:34 AM
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snopes snopes is offline
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
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Icon605 Coin messages on military headstones

Comment: While visiting some cemeteries you may notice that headstones
marking certain graves have coins on them, left by previous visitors to
the grave. These coins have distinct meanings when left on the headstones
of those who gave their life while serving in America's military, & these
meanings vary depending on the denomination of coin.

A coin left on a headstone or at the grave site is meant as a message to
the deceased soldier's family that someone else has visited the grave to
pay respect. Leaving a penny at the grave means simply that you visited.

A nickel indicates that you & the deceased trained at boot camp
together,while a dime means you served with him in some capacity. By
leaving a quarter at the grave, you are telling the family that you were
with the solider when he was killed. According to tradition, the money
left at graves in national cemeteries & state veterans cemeteries is
eventually collected, & the funds are put toward maintaining the cemetery
or paying burial costs for indigent veterans.

In the U.S., 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. Some Vietnam veterans would
leave coins as a "down payment" to buy their fallen comrades a beer or
play a hand of cards when they would finally be reunited.

The tradition of leaving coins on the headstones of military men & women
can be traced to as far back as the Roman Empire.
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Old 03 June 2012, 06:13 AM
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Skeptic Skeptic is offline
Join Date: 16 July 2005
Location: Logan, Queensland, Australia
Posts: 1,801

I'd never heard this tradition (nor had my wife) so I googled "coins on graves".
The first three pages all had basically the same things - ie, sign of respect, to pay the ferryman to the afterlife, or as a tribute to the tradition of Benjamin Franklin. But not one mention of any military background to the tradition.
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Old 03 June 2012, 07:38 AM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
Join Date: 05 September 2005
Location: Kyoto, Japan
Posts: 23,759

Originally Posted by snopes View Post
[...] 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. [...]
Right. This happens to me every time I mention a visit to Arlington Cemetery: "You visited those baby killers!?" Where do people get these stupid ideas?
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Old 03 June 2012, 05:08 PM
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ASL ASL is offline
Join Date: 04 July 2003
Location: Norfolk, VA
Posts: 5,912

And seriously, who calls the family to tell them you just visited their dead relative anyways?
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Old 03 June 2012, 06:57 PM
Singing in the Drizzle Singing in the Drizzle is offline
Join Date: 24 November 2005
Location: Bellingham, WA
Posts: 4,745

Can not find any reference to this leaving coins based on how you served together other than peoples blogs.

I can see people leaving coins for luck, to help the dead and just letting the family know someone visited the grave. Leaving coins in denominations that show how you may have served with the deceased would first require that it is well known that is what they are for.
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Old 13 June 2012, 06:47 PM
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Bonsai Kitten Coin messages on military headstones

I've never heard of this one before. Both my mother and father are buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio.My mom died in 1982 and was buried there first, and then my dad passed away in 1996,and his coffin was placed on top of hers in the vault.Been going down there since 1982 to take flowers to their grave, and never once in all those years have i ever seen anyone leaving coins on the headstones. Haven't seen any in the cemetery at all.My parents are buried in the original cemetery.They have expanded it further into Fort Sam Houston Army Base, so maybe this is happening in the newer area,but not in the old original cemetery.
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Old 19 September 2014, 06:05 PM
imagineman imagineman is offline
Join Date: 13 September 2014
Location: Kentucky
Posts: 1

My unit does this. We did a memorial run down to our REGT memorial. A penny meant you visited, a nickel meant you are in the same PLT he was in, a dime meant you served with him, and a quarter meant you were there.

1-506 101st
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