Veterans leave pennies on graves at Nashville National Cemetery

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

MADISON, Tenn. – A group of veterans is doing their part to make sure veterans buried in the Nashville National Cemetery in Madison are paid the respects they deserve on Friday.

“Freedom is not free. These graves are not just representative of people that have died but people who have died making sure we can do what we can do today,” said Donna Coleman.

It is a price Coleman knows well.

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

“Not only am I veteran; my father is buried out here. I also work at the cemetery,” she told News 2.

As a veteran, she appreciates kind gestures not only on holidays but every day.

“We have a loving, caring community that care about our veterans that care about our cemetery.”

Even the smallest ones of all, a simple coin with an impact to last forever.

“My father is buried here and we always put an extra penny on his grave,” Coleman said.

For the third straight year, the veterans will walk through the National Cemetery with thousands of pennies and place them on the headstones to pay their respects and show they are gone but not forgotten.

Phil Dake is a Navy veteran and he started Pennies for Vets three years ago, but the idea comes from the Vietnam era.

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

The program is made up of veterans who work at nearby Home Depot stores across Middle Tennessee.

“They started leaving pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters – all representing a certain meaning,” he said.

The penny shows someone is thinking about the deceased veteran. The quarter symbolizes the two have a bond that can never be broken.

“The quarter being the most meaningful. The person that left it served and was in combat and action when that person died.”

It is an emotional day but Phil says stopping to reflect helps people make sense of the price we pay for freedom.

“You stop and you read those markers and you see who that person was, see when they served. It does, it gets you in the heart some time,” Dake said.

For some spare change and time, Coleman appreciates every penny.