Challenge coins are being used by different organizations nowadays, but before Katniss Everdeen graced her own challenge coin, the tradition of using coins as a symbol of unity started with the military. The idea of a challenge coin is to provide a symbol of membership to each and every person in the military service. Each branch of the military has its own challenge coin. Some, commemorating anniversaries, while others honoring the bravery of soldiers that fought the battle.
Awarding soldiers with challenge coins was a tradition that, some believe, had been started by the Roman Empire. Nowadays, commanders would give challenge coins to the members of his unit, a way to ensure unity and to establish Esprit de Corps. A challenge coin bearing the insignia of the military somehow symbolizes that one has accepted the responsibility and suppressed the fear of anything that might happen during the line of duty.
Over the years, the military has minted over thousands of coins, ranging from simple to complex shapes and made from different metals such as bronze or silver. The coins also come with different designs, from serious to those that can make you laugh.
In the Air Force, training instructors award an airman’s coin to the newly enlisted personnel when they successfully finish their United States Air Force Basic Military Training. They also give coins to new officers when they complete the Air Force Officer Training School.
The most famous military coins with unusual shape is the US Army Diver coin. It comes in the shape of a diver’s helmet with the words US Army and Deep Sea Diver engraved on the back. The coin commends the holder to go after a higher ranking certification as a diver.
Another coin which deviates from the mainstream round shape is the “Trample the Weak” coin that comes in a shape of a skull. The coin of the 173rd Airborne Brigade certainly is not for the faint-hearted as it flaunts the words “Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead.”
Among many challenge coins released by the military, the “Mickey Mouse” certainly differs for it showcases a unique shape but not a violent one. With its, Mickey Mouse shape, as the name suggests, the coin released by the Naval Air Welfare Center definitely stands out.
Aside from those that stand out because of their shapes, there are some that stand out because of the reason they were minted. Take, for example, the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, which was given to the most senior enlisted man in the Navy.
Another is the Submariner Memorial coin of the Silent Service Patrol. The coin was minted for those who patrol the oceans twenty-four hours a day for seven days. The coin bears the words silent, endurance, fast, stealth, deadly, firepower deep and agility up front while the back contains the numbers of the ships that never reached their destination because they were lost to the depths of the ocean.
Lastly, there is the Medal of Honor challenge coin, and though it may not have the flashiest design, it still reminds people that the owner is the nation’s mightiest heroes.
Challenge coins may have originated a century ago, but since then, they have been a timeless symbol of bravery, integrity, excellence and valor. Some may come in odd shapes, while others in mainstream circles. Some may be coated in gold while others in silver, and each kind of coin has a different set of words engraved on it, each and every coin minted stands for something more than a piece of metal does for it unites people.
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