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Coins left on gravestones pay tribute to fallen soldiers

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ANDERSON, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Pennies, nickels and dimes were left on gravestones of those who fought and died for our country.

It's a lesser-known tradition that happens across the country, including the Upstate.

Maj. Jeff Fultz, superintendent of the M.J. "Dolly" Cooper Veterans Cemetery in Anderson, explained that the tradition started during the Vietnam War time. He said that visiting a friend or loved one's family after their time in Vietnam may have been controversial.

As a way to show respect without causing a fight, Fultz said people would drop coins onto grave markers to let families know someone came to see their soldier.

He said some customs say that a penny represents the fact that the visitor served in basic training with the deceased, the nickel means that they served overseas or in a unit together, and a dime showed that they served in combat together.

People in other regions may have different symbolism for the coins, but the practice is ultimately about dignity and recognition.

"It shows the family that he was cared for or thought about by others, and it shows a lot of respect," said Fultz.

Fultz said he usually picks up around 100 coins a month Dolly Cooper, but he sees many more during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

He said the coins can't stay for long or else they'd stain the granite gravestones. But even he, a 30-year Marine Corps veteran, takes the custom seriously.

"I don't stay in touch with too many people, but if I ever read an obituary that an old friend of mine passed that I served with, I would probably hop on my motorcycle and make a road trip to go visit his gravesite and show my respects and leave a coin," Fultz explained.

Dolly Cooper Veterans Cemetery will be holding its annual Memorial Day program at 10 a.m. Monday.

They'll have a guest speaker and place wreaths on graves in memory of the tomb of the unknown soldiers and of all veterans.

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