What are military coins and why are they so prevalent in the Armed Forces? They go by many names such as military challenge coins, custom military coins, or commander’s coins, and they are reserved and given out for the select few who happen to be members of a unit, have done a great deed deserving recognition, or have reached career milestones.
The use of military challenge coins are believed to have started in World War I when a richofficerfunded the minting of military coins for distribution to members of his flying squadron. The tale in which it has saved a soldier’s life may be a bit on the apocryphal side, but the use of custom military coins as proof of identity and affiliation with a military unit rings true – and this is probably the reason why to this day, challenge coins continue to be used as a symbol of membership in a branch, unit, or organization.
Coin passing is a culture that has caught on in many other non-military groups but it continues to be a fascinating sight for civilians when they catch a glimpse of military coins being passed from one hand to another. There are a lot of humanity and emotion in the way that custom military coins are given out discreetly through handshakes. Most military officials and members are viewed as rigid and unemotional yet the act of giving military coins brings out smilesin the giver and the recipient.
President Obama gives out military challenge coins to deserving members and officers of the Armed Forces and some members of the media have been lucky to steal a glimpse of the supposed secret “coinshake” on several occasions. One of his initial handoffs weren’t as smooth though. Sgt. Kristie Ness awkwardly dropped the coin handed to her by the president just before he was to go on board the Marine One helicopter. The president very gentlemanly bent down to retrieve the coin off the ground and put it back in her palm. The failed handoff was widely reported and the two were photographed sharing a good laugh on the incident.
On the fun side, custom military coins are widely used in coin checks or challenges where the holder has to show the appropriate challenge coin to avoid dire consequences. The rules of the challenge game vary among units, but the penalty for not bringing one’s military challenge coin revolve around buying drinks for unit members who happen to have their coins with them.This can be really expensive and to this day, many enlisted members take great care to ensure that they have their coins with them in the event of a coin challenge.
On the other hand, most soldiers and enlisted members who won their military challenge coins by risking life and limbs on delicate missions respect and treasure their military coins as proof of their loyalty to their unit and their readiness to make the ultimate sacrifice.
The graves of those who perished in battles are honoured with military coins presented by their unit commanders and high ranking officials of the country. Their families will always be reminded of their heroic deed through military challenge coins that depict the ideals that their loved ones have bravely fought for.
Unit commanders use custom coins as a tool to build the morale of valiant and hardworking service members who are giving their best and pouring their talents beyond the call of duty.
Because they serve such gallant purposes, custom military coins are specially crafted to match the distinct bravery and dedication of the enlisted members of the Armed Forces and their units.