Silver Dollar Salute – Coins play a unique part in Military tradition. My first introduction to their history was after saluting a friend who had just received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, aboard the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides).
By tradition, the silver dollar is a coin given in exchange of the very first salute received as an officer. While the coin may be just one dollar, it represents a value far greater to both the giver and the receiver. To new officers it represents a memorial of their newly earned rank the memory it makes and their part in American history.
Organizational Coins Beyond the Military – Challenge coins are now being used by many different organizations. In the federal government, everyone from Secret Service agents to White House Staff have their own coins. Probably the coolest coins are those used to commemorate major events such as the Superbowl and Ironman Championships.
I received this coin from another fellow US Marine Dave Orlowski. He is one of the original 15 Ironman athletes (third place finisher) of the 1st Inaugural Ironman held on February 18, 1978, in Oahu, Hawaii. Dave motivated me to complete my 1st Ironman and flew to Lake Placid NY to cheer, coach and support me through to finish. This coin given to me then symbolizes our brotherhood and the Spirit of Ironman that Dave helped create.
Challenge Coins – For those of you that have never heard of a Challenge Coin the short story is it’s a military or organization commemorative coin. They are exchanged by members of an organization to instill unit pride, brotherhood and esprit de corps or to reward hard work and excellence.
I received my first Military Challenge Coin from Sgt. Michael Paquette a Marine and fellow Military Policeman. It’s special to me and is symbolic of our brotherhood.
Many service members proudly carry and or display challenge coins at their desks or homes, showing off the many missions they’ve been on and the units for which they’ve worked.
Looking back I find it nearly impossible to know for certain where the tradition of challenge coins truly began. One thing is certain though: Coins and military service go way back in history.
One of the earliest known examples of an enlisted soldier being monetarily rewarded for valor took place in Ancient Rome. If a soldier performed well in battle that day, he would receive his typical day’s pay, and a separate coin as a bonus.
Some accounts say that the coin was specially minted with a mark of the legion from which it came, prompting some men to hold on to their coins as a memento, rather than spend them on women and wine.
Just Wait A Memento – This is where the story gets interesting… Think about this one moment…. Down through history enlisted soldiers are out on the town on a payday weekend, money and a prestigious commemorative coin in their pockets enjoying wine and woman… What do you think happens to those commemorative coins when their pay is gone? Who buys the drinks now?
The answer was that those glorious bastards figured out a way to hold on to their commemorative coins… and to continue partying…How???
They created the Coin Challenge!
THE COIN CHALLENGE
- THE RULES – The challenge is initiated by drawing your coin, holding it in the air by whatever means possible and state, scream, shout or otherwise verbally acknowledge that you are initiating a coin check. Another, but less vocal method is to firmly place it on the bar, table, or floor (this should produce an audible noise which can be easily heard by those being challenged, but try not to leave a permanent imprint.) If you accidentally drop your coin and it makes an audible sound upon impact, then you have just “accidentally” initiated a coin check. (This is called paying the price for improper care of your coin.)
- The response consists of all those persons being challenged drawing their coin in a like manner.
- If you are challenged and are unable to properly respond, you must buy a round of drinks for the challenger and the group being challenged. In Vietnam is rumored that battle tested infantryman used this challenge to force non-combat soldier into buying the house a round.
- If everyone being challenged responds in the correct manner, the challenger must buy a round of drinks for all those people they challenged.
- Failure to buy a round of drinks is a despicable crime and will require that you turn-in your Coin.
Presenting The Challenge Coin.
As with anything that is personal and meaningful presentation of a Challenge Coin is ceremonial. Traditionally, the presentation of a coin is passed during a handshake. Recently on of our fellow Marines required a critical operation involving his heart. The surgeon is a field decorated Army surgeon who practices at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia and Cornell in New York. After the successful operation we commemorated his service to our brother with the following Challenge Coin. It symbolizes our unbreakable bond for the service he rendered to our friend and brother Marine. We passed this coin along with our handshake to the Doc… and it symbolizes our eternal gratitude.
So how is a coins value determined?
“Most coins lose their value when spent; yet a Challenge Coin gains its value when rendered”.