Memorial Day and the methods of remembrance are steeped in tradition. Memorial Day was conceived in the 19th century, and is generally considered to be related to the Vietnam War. However, in 1868 General John A. Logan, recognized as a high ranking official of a veteran’s union group named the Grand Army of the Republic, determined that May 30th should be a nationwide day of commemoration for the over 600,000 soldiers killed serving in the Civil War (Maranzani, 2021). Although this is considered a pivotal moment in remembering those who had laid down their lives for their country, paying respects to fallen soldiers was a practice long before garnering national attention.
Taking 85 years to progress from an American idea to a nationally recognized holiday, Memorial Day was referred to as Decoration Day and observed throughout the month of May by various states until the Uniform Holiday Act was introduced. This act ensured that Memorial Day would fall on the last Monday in May. Traditions associated with remembering the fallen have included the wearing of red poppies that arose from the words of a poem written prior to 1920, flying the American flag at half staff until noon on Memorial Day and pausing for a moment of national remembrance at 3 PM, and the leaving of coins on the headstones of fallen soldiers.
Although there is much speculation as to the origins of leaving coins on the headstones of fallen soldiers there exists agreement as to what the coins mean. If a penny is left on a headstone it is to signify that respects were being paid to the soldier and his family. A nickel is left by a fellow soldier to signify that the giver and the soldier were tied to each other through basic training, a dime indicates that the giver and the fallen soldier served in active duty together, and a quarter, thought to be the most significant coin, indicates that the giver was present when the soldier fell in the line of duty. Without the need for words, the most powerful message is conveyed to the families of the fallen soldiers that their son, daughter, father or mother is remembered and honored.
This Memorial Day why not visit a cemetery designated for military veterans and leave a coin or two? Not only are you conveying that those who lie there that they are honored and remembered, but you will also be contributing to the upkeep of the cemetery as the coins are collected to pay for maintenance. To all of those whom have served and fallen, LMP honors your sacrifice and that of your family’s.
Maranzani, B. (2021; 2013). 8 Things You May Not Know About Memorial Day. History Stories. Retrieved from: 8 Things You May Not Know About Memorial Day – HISTORY