The Memorial Day: Pennies on the Grave

Published May 24, 2018 by lynn k scott

Every Memorial Day, for the last 5 years, I have taken my daughter to a cemetery; to the veteran’s section. This is a tradition I started so she will know the true meaning behind Memorial Day. It’s not just a day off of work or school or a time to barbecue. Please do not thank a veteran for his/her service either (that’s Veteran’s Day). Memorial Day is the day we use to honor those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

When we first started visiting the veteran graves, I would let my daughter pick out the graves to visit. Then, I would read the name, branch, rank, birth/death and any wars he/she may have served in. She would then place a penny on the grave and say, “thank you for your service.” Now that my daughter is older, she does this on her own.

As the daughter of a Vietnam vet, niece of a Desert Storm vet and mom to active-duty soldier, who served in Afghanistan is now state-side, I uphold this tradition as it something I believe in with all my heart.

In past years, we have had people following us around, trying to get a glimpse of what we were doing. Some knew and when we made eye contact, they would give us a smile and a head nod.

There are four options you can leave on the tombstone:

  • Penny – means you visited and paid your respects
  • Nickel – means you trained in boot camp with that person
  • Dime – means you served with that person
  • Quarter – means you were there when they passed


One year my daughter was so moved by the young age a Marine had lost his life, she hugged the tombstone. I have to admit, it made my eyes leak a bit and my heart swelled with pride.

If you would like to learn more about this age-old tradition, you can read more about it here.


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