Have you ever noticed the coins sitting on top of headstones in cemeteries? Whether the tombstone is that of someone who served in our military or not, the meanings behind those coins and the denomination are beautiful.

This tradition of leaving coins started with military men and women and can be traced as far back as the Roman Empire, according to The Wounded Warrior Project. Back then soldiers would insert a coin into the mouth of the fallen to ensure they could cross the River Styx into the afterlife.

Today, when you see headstones and gravesites of military men and women, the various coins and their denominations sitting on the tombstones are a symbol of respect for our fallen soldiers. They let the deceased soldier’s family and friends know that someone was there to pay their respects.

Getty Images
Getty Images

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.

Getty Images
Getty Images

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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