What Do The Coins Atop Veterans’ Gravestones Represent?


There were some good things that happened during the observance of this past Memorial Day. President Trump and Vice-President Pence visited Arlington National Cemetery. And many others visited their local cemeteries to honor our fallen service members who died after serving our country. And some probably found coins atop gravestones.

Historically, honoring the dead goes way back mankind’s early history. Archeological excavations have found a variety of items left with remains to accompany them to the next world. The first use of coins can be traced to the seventh century B.C.

Snopes reports:

In Greek mythology, Charon, the ferryman of Hades, required payment for his services. A coin was therefore placed in the mouth of the dear departed to ensure he would ferry the deceased across the rivers Styx and Acheron and into the world of the dead rather than leave him to wander the shore for a hundred years

In today’s culture, these coins are unofficially called a “coin salute”. Some sources report this practice originated during the Vietnam War. However, others claim it dates to a much more recent time: 2009.

But what do the coins represent? American Military News provides the answer to the question about these coins:

A penny left on the top of the headstone means that the grave-site was visited.

A nickel indicates that the person visiting the site trained at boot camp with the deceased veteran, while a dime means the person served with them in some capacity.

A quarter left at the grave means that the person who left the coin was with the veteran when they were killed.

The money placed in national and state veterans cemeteries is collected and put towards future burial costs and cemetery maintenance.

So, if you service members and veterans didn’t know, you now have another way to pay your respect to those who have previously served in our nation’s armed forces.

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Chuck Yarling has had many titles in his career thus far: veteran, engineer, math teacher, consultant, technical writer, book author and publisher, and triathlete. He was a member the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Bugles Across America, which plays Taps at military funerals and special events. Spec. 5 Chuck Yarling served with the 26th Combat Engineering Battalion in Vietnam as an awards clerk. His service with the U.S. Army resulted in being awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Army Commendation Medal. You may reach Chuck at [email protected]

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