Military coins, also known as “challenge coins”, are the small medallions that prove the membership of a person involved in an organization.
Although these coins have no monetary value and cannot be used for currency exchange, they have a value of their own. Throughout the years since the challenge coins have emerged, their history still remains a mystery. Yet, they are still recognized to have a significant contribution in the organization’s security and doctrines. These coins have prevented the infiltration of saboteurs and spies in several military units. They have also prevented the execution of the soldiers who have proven their identity by presenting the coin to the executioners. Furthermore, they are also given as on-the-spot awards to the service men and women so the honor they have brought to the organization can be acknowledged.
The U.S. military possess such customs of carrying military coins that represent the esprit de corps. These coins have an engraved image in their surface. This image symbolizes the military unit’s insignia. Some of them even endorse the etched motto of the military unit. These medallions instill brotherhood among the soldiers and army countrymen, who have bonds that are forged in wars waged miles away from home. These pieces of metal convey the essence of the members’ affiliation and long-standing fierce pride. They enhance the morale and self-esteem of the individuals involved in the organization. Carrying military coinsis like carrying one’s surname with confidence and courage. Nowadays, the American troops preserve the challenge coins’ role inmilitary life.
Though there is a historical account of challenge coins in America, one of the oldest pure challenge coins is the 17th Infantry Coin of Korea, which was made during the Korean War by COL “Buffalo Bill” Quinn of the 17th Infantry Regiment. The military unit was formed in 1812. During the Vietnam War, the tradition of challenge coin was already wide-spread and popular. Still, they are inspired by Special Forces that minted coins to represent one’s unique identification as a member of a strong affiliation. These coins often imply the elitism of a group as it builds pride and camaraderie.
Even to this day, medallions are carried by soldiers, sailors, airmen or pilots, marines, lawyers and firemen. Each of them belongs to an affiliation with a unique vision and mission. Whenever these bearers gather and meet, the coin challenge or “coining” is commonly practiced. This challenge is called “coin check.” The medallion is drawn by the challenger by slamming it onto a table. This is to challenge all of the members to display their own coins. If one fails to do so, there is a penalty – being obligated to pay for a round of drinks.
The tradition of the popularly known military coins have been traced way back to World War II. That time, the nation’s freedom was secured by deploying American forces to different regions. Military volunteers and army men from World War I and the Civil War that have survived have kept their coins in their pockets. After the conflict, they have saved the coins as memoirs of their wartime experiences. The troops assigned in Germany after the war have adapted the German tradition called “pfennig check.” The smallest unit of the German currency is called a “pfennig.” Once a pfennig check has been announced, a military member who could not produce a pfennig is obligated to buy a round of drinks for the group. From there transpired what is called today as “coin check.”
Military coins, even if they seem to be mere “tokens”, serve as a tangible source of pride and honor for the country’s warriors. They should be carried at all times. They should also be handled with care to signify one’s respect to the organization.
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