By Fort Sill Tribune staffNovember 8, 2019
FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Nov. 8, 2019) -- Soldiers, staff and families from 2nd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery remembered veterans Nov. 7, by placing pennies on headstones at the Fort Sill Post Cemetery.
High winds and freezing temperatures did not deter the150 Soldiers who placed 5,700 pennies on hundreds of gravesites during the 4 p.m. memorial. Many of the Soldiers were young officers in the ADA Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC); and ADA Captains Career Course (CCC).
Capt. Jean Tomte, CCC instructor, helped organize the event to commemorate Veterans Day.
"We honor those who came before us to show that they will never be forgotten," Tomte said. "The (ADA) school graduates will remember the significance of placing a coin on a gravesite, not only for Veterans Day but any time they walk through a cemetery."
Chaplain (Capt.) Jae Change, 2-6th ADA battalion chaplain, performed the invocation. He told the crowd how important it is to honor veterans.
The formation also heard from battalion leaders as well as Col. David Shank, ADA School assistant commandant. He reflected on Armistice Day, and said the spirit of fallen veterans lives on in every Soldier today.
Lt. Col. Cedric Lee, 2-6th ADA commander, said he wanted to implant the legacy, the history, the heritage of the Armed Forces into the officers, especially the lieutenants.
"One of the more important pieces of their development is understanding that they are part of a long line of not only veterans, but those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms," Lee said. "That instills the pride that's required to be a leader."
Gingerly walking between gravesites the Soldiers placed one penny atop each headstone. The denomination of coins placed has significance, Tomte said. A penny means you have visited the gravesite. A nickel says that you trained with the service member during Basic Combat Training. A quarter denotes that you were with the service member when he or she was killed in action.
The pennies were donated by members from 2-6th ADA over one month at a collection box at the battalion, Tomte said. "We wouldn't accept 20 dollars from one person, but instead wanted everyone to put one, two, or three pennies as they passed the box."
BOLC student 2nd Lt. Jake Weise was one of the Soldiers who placed pennies. He said he is the first person in his family to serve in the military.
"This (cemetery) really shows the scale of sacrifice that veterans are willing to put fourth for their country for people who they will never know," he said. "It's graceful to honor those people who have given so much."