Despite the first official day of summer not happening until sometime in mid-to-late June (usually around the 21st), Memorial Day Weekend has come to be viewed as the start of summer. Most of us get the luxury of enjoying a three-day weekend, so we plan cookouts and get-togethers with friends and family as our thoughts turn to being outside to enjoy the warmer weather. While that's all well and good, it often overshadows the real reason for the holiday. It's the one military veterans will never forget. Honoring the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.

For many veterans, the weekend may include attending a cookout, but it also likely includes a trip to a cemetery to pay their respects to those they served with who are no longer with us. In some cases, that also means leaving a small token on the gravestone.

The Meaning Behind Coins Left on Military Gravestones

President Bush Attends Memorial Day Ceremony At Arlington
Getty Images

If you ever find yourself visiting a cemetery, and notice a gravestone with pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters sitting on it, leave them be. They were left there by someone for a specific reason and to let the soldier's surviving family members know someone came by to pay their respects.

The tradition began in the 1970s following the Vietnam War. In a 2017 interview with the ABC-TV affiliate in Chicago, Vietnam veteran, Col. Dave Taylor explained the purpose behind it.

It is believed it was a way to show respect without getting into an uncomfortable political discussion about a war that was very controversial.

What Each Coin Represents

This is a shot of loose change on the table
Marcus Crockett

Like the coins themselves, the higher the value, the more they are worth. In this case, that "worth" (for lack of a better term) is how close the relationship was between the deceased and the person leaving the coin.

The veteran's organization, Veteran Up, which provides resources and assistance for veterans in need, broke down each coin's meaning in a post on its Facebook page.

Keep this in mind next time you visit a cemetery to visit with someone you know. And maybe carry a little extra change with you to pay your own respects to the fallen men and women who died fighting for our country.

[Source: Veterans Up on Facebook / ABC 7 - Chicago]

LOOK: 100 years of American military history

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