Why Are Military Coins Important?

By Lashunda Wilkison

  • Overview

    Military coins mean a great deal to a service member. He boasts of his achievements and the history of how he received them. They all seem to represent something unfamiliar to the civilian eye. There is great history and significance with military coins. They constitute the many reasons service members signed the military service contract and recited the enlistment oath.
    Why Are Military Coins Important?
  • The Facts

    A military coin is known by many names. Regardless of the name, it can always be identified by service members. It's classified as a medallion, challenge, unit or commander's coin. The coin is designed with the insignia of the unit, battle or goal accomplished. The military coin embodies respect and patronage for the military organization it represents. The coin can be gold, brass or silver. A service member can have the coins engraved with personal information that reflects him serving the military.
  • History

    The military coin originated in World War I. A lieutenant of Ivy League stature designed a gold-plated, solid bronze coin with his squadron emblem. He ordered coins for all of his fellow airmen to commemorate their time together. One particular soldier had never owned anything of such expense. He wore it around his neck in a leather pouch. Some time after receiving the medallion, the airman flew out on a mission. His plane was bombarded by gunfire. The airman's fighter jet was forced to land behind enemy lines. He was captured by the Germans and sent to a POW camp to be held overnight. The Germans confiscated all of his belongings except the pouch around his neck. That night, the camp was taken over by the British and the airman was able to escape. He fled across no-man's land disguised as a civilian. He reached the British, but with no identification they deemed him an enemy. He persuaded the British to verify his identity by showing the insignia on the coin. His bravery and quick thinking established the tradition of airmen always carrying the coin.


  • The Function of the Military Coin

    Since World War I, airmen used the coin as a challenge, therefore creating the challenge coin. This tradition swept over to all other military organizations. Members of the military would whip out the coin without notice to issue a challenge toward another member of the same organization. If that member didn't possess a coin, he would have to buy a drink for the challenger and anyone who witnessed the challenge. If he had the coin, the challenger brought a round of drinks. There are no regulations as to how a challenge can be presented. It's been said that if a coin was accidentally dropped, it was an intentional challenge to all present.
  • Significance

    You may wonder: What is the importance of the military coin? It's about pride and the love of serving our great nation. Military coins are made precisely for companies, brigades, wars, training, high political officials and historic battles. They are designed with logos that reflect the situation. If a military member is hurt during battle, she may receive a coin from the governor of her state. Senior military officials use the coins as awards and a way to build morale within the unit. The more coins one has serves as a reflection of excellence. Military members are reminded of the bond they shared for many years. These coins allow these memories to stay fresh. They symbolize the sacrifice, strength, courage and honor that serving in the military encompasses.
  • Benefits

    The military coin develops cohesion and confidence among members. It is immediate acknowledgment of a training exercise or improvement. It's a token of everlasting memories, solid like the history that created the tradition among service organizations. The passion that each service member expresses about his personal experience with military coins is intense, a permanent benefit. That raw emotion is undeniable to all.
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