Coins on tombstones, an American tradition that has gradually taken root in Canada

Have you ever wandered through a military cemetery and noticed coins on some tombstones? It has become a silent message in support of the families of fallen soldiers.

A penny indicates that you have already visited. Five cents if you train with the dead at boot camp. A dime if you serve with the deceased in any capacity. A quarter, if you were with soldiers when they were killed.

This is the most widely understood version of each coin ruling when placed on a tombstone. Like many ancient traditions, this one has been ingrained over the years and seems to have slightly different meanings depending on who you ask.

The specific practice of leaving certain denominations of coins as information to the families of fallen soldiers can be traced roughly back to the Vietnam War. When some claimed the political divisions of the war made it uncomfortable or inappropriate to visit the families of the deceased. So coins instead become a way to show families of fallen soldiers that you have been to their graves and how you knew them before they died. At some point, the ritual appears to have spread across the border, with local cemetery managers across Canada and even Victoria can confirm that they have seen coins left on gravestones around Greater Victoria.

In addition to leaving specific exotic coins, other traditions have emerged throughout history, such as leaving coins as a symbolic gesture to buy a round for fallen comrades. Coins seem to have played a role in honoring and honoring the dead even as far back as ancient Greece, although burying coins with the deceased or leaving coins in a cemetery at the time was a grieving family’s way of ensuring loved ones safely cross the Styx and into the afterlife.

So, while not as common as leaving other offerings on tombstones and monuments to honor the deceased, the practice of leaving coins on veterans’ graves has quietly been practiced in North America for years and continues to spread.

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