The tradition of the military coin is one of considerable question. Most people will give the credit to the United States Army Air Service which is another name for what is now the United States Air Force.
Although most non-military do not know the story of the military coin, the men and women who serve in the military, whether it in the field, on board a ship or flying through the skies in a military aircraft know the story very well.
These coins represent the heart and soul of the military. They are a token of not only the achievements they have accomplished but the ones of soldiers who served their country many years ago. The pride of being a part of the effort to keep their country free is reflected by this coin they carry.
The coins are normally embellished with a brightly colored design which is a tribute to the particular unit in which the soldier has served. When they are received from a superior officer the military coins are especially treasured. The meaning behind these coins is one that eludes explanation. You either know why they are carried or you do not.
One story goes that a rich Ivy Leaguer who joined as an air squadron pilot during World War I had bronze coins made with the insignia of the squadron in which he was a lieutenant. He gave them to the other pilots as a way to remember their time spent together in the military. They were rumored to have been quite expensive.
A pilot from the squadron receiving the coins put his in a small pouch that he wore around his neck for safekeeping. When his plane was so damaged during an air attack that he had to set it down behind enemy lines, he was captured. Managing to escape he made it to France, where he was in danger of being shot as a spy. He did not have his I.D. and no way to prove who he was. By showing the coin, he was easily identified as an American soldier.
Although this is anybody’s guess as to the truth of the story, it may well have happened just that way. One thing is for certain. The military challenge coin is a symbol of something far larger than ourselves. This is the recognized object that sets apart the brave men and women who sacrifice and give their all to the country in which they were born in order to keep it free.
The special meaning the military coin will carry for all time is one of camaraderie for the soldiers as they make their way through an unfamiliar land to bring America the freedom she is based on and will continue to be based on. Although they may be made from nickel, brass, or bronze the representation of the coin is one that is never denied. It is the symbol of brotherhood in the true sense of the word.