Coins a Matter of Pride
for America’s Troops
Most civilians typically associate coins with the loose change found in their pockets at the end of the day. But to the men and women of the U.S. Military, who serve aboard aircraft carriers, on bases, and in combat zones around the world, coins mean a whole lot more.
The coins they carry are reminders that they are part of a cause much larger than themselves.
The popularity of such “challenge coins” within the military has many reasons. For one, they provide a sense of permanent recognition that a handshake or a pat on the back simply cannot match. In addition, they typically feature the heraldic symbols, slogans, and mottoes that cut straight to the core of what it means to belong to a particular unit or branch of service. But perhaps the biggest source of their momentum is tradition. Though the exact origin of challenge coins is still largely a matter of debate, one thing is clear: they have been carried, displayed and presented with pride by service members of all branches for decades.
According to ETC (SW) Dave Byers of the U.S. Navy, who serves aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), challenge coins are an ideal way to celebrate an achievement, recognize an accomplishment, or honor a lifetime of service.
Byers recently purchased a handful of coins from Northwest Territorial Mint, a private, full-service mint located in Auburn, Washington, not far from Fort Lewis, McChord AFB, NAVSTA Everett, and NAS Whidbey.
“I made Chief in the U.S. Navy and am extremely proud of that,” said Byers. “I wanted to get a coin or two to emphasize that fact.”
“Plus, coins are part of a tradition in the military. I’ve got a growing collection from my time in the Navy that I plan to display for the rest of my life,” Byers said.
Byers made his purchase from Northwest Territorial Mint’s online store, which currently features more than 1,400 designs honoring all branches of the U.S. Military, police officers, firefighters, and more.
“My wife actually found the web site,” said Byers.
“She’s retired Navy and is now a proud Navy spouse, so we both ended up buying coins to reflect a variety of the things we’ve accomplished throughout our careers,” he said.
Many U.S. Military commanders use coins as calling cards and to award good service. A growing number of the military’s top brass pass out coins imprinted with their names on them as impromptu awards and morale boosters. This practice is seen by many as an effective way to motivate subordinates to work harder to achieve mission success.
Unit challenge coins have also gained in popularity in recent years. Identifying the bearer as a bona fide member of a particular command or occupational specialty, they are guarded closely and carried always. Typically featuring stark designs enameled in bright colors, they usually depict symbols and slogans that emphasize the unique history and accomplishments of the units they represent.
Whether received as an award from a superior or shared by the members of a unit, military coins take on a personal meaning for all those who hold them. Attached to each one is a special significance that is not always easy to define. That’s why more and more of the proud men and women who wear America’s uniform, like Navy Chief Dave Byers, have made a practice of collecting and displaying their coins as badges of honor. Though often made from non-precious metals like brass and nickel, these coins are solid proof of a life dedicated to something they believe is worth every sacrifice - freedom.