Dillon hosts ceremony to honor fallen veterans on Memorial Day
May 28, 2014
Leaving coins on tombstones
The tradition of leaving coins on the headstones of military men and women dates back as far as the Roman Empire.
In the United States, the practice became common during the Vietnam War. Due to the political divide in the country over the war, many saw leaving a coin as a more practical way to communicate that someone had visited a soldier’s grave rather than reaching out to the soldier’s family, which came with the risk of igniting a heated political argument.
Some Vietnam veterans leave coins as a down payment to buy their fallen comrades a beer or to play a hand of cards when reunited in the afterlife.
In addition to serving as an unspoken gesture to a deceased soldier’s family, coins carry specific meanings depending on the denomination.
• Leaving a penny means someone simply visited the grave
• Leaving a nickel means the person trained with the soldier at boot camp
• Leaving a dime means the person served with the soldier in some capacity
• Leaving a quarter means the person was with the soldier when he was killed
According to tradition, money left at graves in national and state veterans cemeteries is eventually collected. The funds are used for cemetery maintenance or to pay burial costs of needy veterans.
— Source: Program from Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony at Dillon Cemetery
When Summit County Commissioner Thomas Davidson was growing up in eastern Kansas, he spent his Memorial Days with his family traveling from one small cemetery to the next to pay their respects to a long list of ancestors who served their country.
During Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony at Dillon Cemetery, Davidson talked about how much those experiences meant to him and how pleased he was to see local Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts participating in the annual event as color guards, performing the 13-step American flag-folding ceremony and retiring old flags.
“My great-great-grandfather fought with the Union Army and I remember as a kid that meant more to me than any history lesson I ever learned in school,” Davidson said. “It’s great to see so many Boy Scouts here and so many children in the audience because it is important to teach them why we do this.
“Now more than ever it is important to remember those who served for us.”
More than 100 people attended Monday’s ceremony, which featured patriotic music by the Summit Concert Band and a number of local speakers, including an invocation by Pastor Jim Howard from Dillon Community Church, a welcome address by Dillon Mayor Kevin Burns, remarks by Robert Knorr, exalted ruler of Elks Lodge #2561, and a benediction by Pastor Mark Hill.
Local veteran Rob Mitchell spoke during Monday’s ceremony about the symbolism of “Table Honors” — a round table with a white tablecloth featuring empty chairs, a red rose, a slice of lemon, a pinch of salt, a candle and an inverted drinking glass.
The table is round, Mitchell said, to show everlasting concern for still-missing comrades. The tablecloth is white to symbolize the purity of intent of those comrades.
The red rose symbolizes the blood spilled; the slice of lemon for the bitter fate of those who may never return; and the pinch of salt represents the tears of families of soldiers who have not yet returned.
“The candle is the light of hope, which lives on in our hearts,” Mitchell said. “The inverted glass is in recognition that they are unable to share in this ceremony with us; and the empty chairs because they are not with us.”
Dillon’s new police chief, Mark Heminghous, honored the veterans buried at Dillon Cemetery by reading each of their names. There are a total of 52 veterans buried at the cemetery; they represent every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their service dates back to the Civil War.
But the ceremony wasn’t entirely somber, as Linda Polhemus, historian and vice-chairwoman of the Dillon Cemetery Advisory Committee, shared with the audience the progress the town has made to identify the remains in 130 unmarked graves at the cemetery. The noble undertaking began about eight years ago, Polhemus said.
During that time, thanks to generous donations, the committee has placed permanent markers on 88 of those 130 graves.