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G. K. Chesterton wrote, "Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die." The men and women who served in the armed forces, whether during a time of war, or one of peace, are living examples of that contradiction. Each should be honored and remembered, so that our gratitude never fade's...
Leaving coins on the headstones of those who served in the Military, especially those who died in combat, dates back at least as far as the Roman Empire.
The practice became especially popular in the United States during the Vietnam War because of the political climate throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Friends of those who died in combat left coins to let family members know that someone had visited the gravesite. Leaving a coin on the headstone was more practical than contacting the family and risk becoming involved in a discussion about the war.
Generally speaking, a visitor who did not know the deceased well enough to be considered a friend might leave a penny. Someone who went through boot camp or a training class with the deceased might leave a nickel. A friend who served in another platoon within the same company might leave a dime. A buddy who served in the same outfit, or was with the deceased when he died, might leave a quarter.
Some Vietnam Veterans left coins as a "down-payment" to purchase a beer or play a hand of poker when he was eventually re-united with his deceased buddy.
Today, the denomination of the coin left on the headstone has become less significant because so few people carry coins other than quarters.
The coins left on headstones within National Cemeteries and State Veterans Cemeteries are collected by cemetery staff from time to time and are used to maintain the grounds. Some cemeteries use the coins to help pay for the burial costs of indigent Veterans.
~ THE MILITARY SALUTE PROJECT ~
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