What Do Coins on a Military Gravestone Mean?
If you've ever visited a cemetery, chances are you've seen coins on a headstone. While it may seem strange at first, placing coins on gravestones is a long-standing tradition. Let's take a closer look at the origins of this revered custom and what it means today.
Why Do People Leave Coins on a Gravestone?
The tradition of leaving mementos on a gravestone is seen throughout history, holding a different meaning within various cultures. For example, in the Jewish religion, a stone is left as a symbol of respect and to indicate the gravesite was visited.
For servicemen, the tradition of leaving coins on a headstone dates back to ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. At the time, it was common practice to place a coin in the mouth of a fallen soldier, allowing them to cross the River Styx. According to Greek mythology, doing so would lead them to the afterlife. The coin, called Charon's obol, would act as payment for the ferryman of Hades.
Fast forward to the Vietnam War, when political tensions were high, visitors would place coins on the tombstone to communicate with the deceased soldier's family and let them know they had visited. This act was a practical way to show support and honor a fallen soldier during a time when the country was experiencing a significant political divide. Today, leaving a coin on a service member's is mostly symbolic and lets family members know you visited their loved one.
What Do Different Coins on the Gravestone Mean?
The type of coin left on a gravestone has a specific meaning, personalizing the act and making it even more meaningful.
Leaving a penny on a deceased service member's tombstone means you visited their grave.
Leaving a nickel indicates you attended boot camp together.
Leaving a dime means you served together in some way.
A quarter is one of the most meaningful coins since it indicates that you were there when the service member died.
What Do Cemeteries Do with Coins on the Gravestone?
Every month, the coins placed on military member's gravestones are collected and used for a variety of purposes. These include cemetery upkeep and maintenance, burial cost assistance, and care for soldiers in need.
What Are Other Ways to Honor Deceased Veterans?
If you don't live near a national cemetery, there are other equally meaningful ways to honor deceased veterans.
Order a Free Burial Flag
Upon request, the VA provides military member's next of kin free casket flags. This heartfelt memento fits beautifully inside a flag display case, which you can exhibit in a place of honor in your home. For family members who don't meet the criteria to receive a free flag, you can purchase a high-quality and vibrant burial flag from places like Americanflags.com.
Place a Stick Flag + Grave Marker
An excellent way to honor a fallen service member is placing a stick flag on their grave. These patriotic symbols are a touching tribute to deceased veterans and provide a thoughtful memorial of their time of service. Pair the stick flag with a durable grave marker for an even more poignant display.
Donate to Veteran Charities
There are many non-profit organizations that support America's veterans, providing them with memorial flags, food, housing, and basic necessities. Honor and Remember strives to "publicly honor and remember every American fallen service member and recognize the enduring sacrifice of every family.” They provide customized flags to the family members of fallen servicemen, paying homage to their lives and ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Purchasing an Honor and Remember Flag or a Flag for the Fallen is an excellent way to show honor and respect for fallen soldiers while giving back. When you purchase this impactful flag from AmericanFlags.com, 30% of the proceeds go to support the Lest They Be Forgotten Foundation, which establishes memorials in towns throughout the country. These memorials honor patriots and soldiers who gave their lives during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
Honor Veterans with Quality, American-Made Flags
At AmericanFlags.com, we believe it is our duty to honor the brave men and women who dedicate their lives to serving our country. We proudly offer high-quality flags that are always made in America. Each of our flags is crafted by expert flagmakers and built to last the test of time. We offer a wide range of American flags, all military branch flags, POW/MIA flags, state flags, and more. Additionally, we supply all the accessories you need to create a stunning flag display. Show your support for our veterans with an American-made flag from AmericanFlags.com.