You may have heard the story about how military challenge coins came to be. During World War I, a wealthy lieutenant ordered medallions with his squadron’s insignia to give to his men. When one pilot was shot down and captured behind enemy lines, his captors recognized the coin and spared his life.
Inspires a Military-Style Brotherhood
The military challenge coin tradition began as a way for members of a particular unit to identify themselves. Still, it quickly became a way to show appreciation and instill a sense of brotherhood. Custom military challenge coins reveal a unit’s logo, emblem, motto, or other elements symbolizing its identity and values. These coins often spark conversations among service members about their shared experiences, deployments, and training, further strengthening the bonds of camaraderie and brotherhood. The popularity of military challenge coins has expanded far beyond the confines of the military. Today, they can be found in police and fire departments across the country and business and community organizations that want to inspire a sense of teamwork and camaraderie. They’re also a popular choice for recognition and award ceremonies, especially when presented by a commander or a president, as they help to instill a sense of honor and pride in the recipient.
For example, the design on a Navy challenge coin showcases the Navy Chaplain Corps’ logo, a golden eagle perched on an anchor and surrounded by the words “Vocati ad Servitium” (Called to Service). It’s complemented by a gold rope edge, a standard feature on Navy challenge coins, adding a class touch. It is the perfect design for any unit or organization wanting to instill a sense of brotherhood in military style.
Symbol of Recognition and Honor
As the name suggests, military challenge coins were created for individuals in service to recognize each other. The coins also served as a symbol of honor and pride, instilling a sense of camaraderie among team members facing the same hardships and risks daily. The story of challenge coins dates back to World War I. One account of their origin tells of an affluent Army Air Squadron commander with bronze medallions engraved with the squadron’s emblem made for his men. The soldiers would carry the medallions with them, and when challenged at a bar, they were required to produce their coin to be permitted a drink.
Another famous challenge coin story takes place during WWII. It involves an American soldier who was scheduled to rendezvous with Philippine guerrillas on a mission behind enemy lines. When his aircraft was shot down, the soldier was captured and stripped of all of his belongings except for a small pouch around his neck that contained his challenge coin. The coin helped to verify his identity and save him from incarceration or, in the worst case, certain death. The tradition of military challenge coins spread to other branches of the service and even to the business world, where they became popular to reward employees or instill a sense of loyalty and unity among a team. Whether celebrating a remarkable achievement, rewarding a loyal employee, or building a cohesive work environment, nothing inspires a sense of camaraderie like a custom-designed challenge coin.
Rewarding Loyalty and Strength
The history behind military challenge coins inspires and instills a sense of loyalty and strength among members. In the past, it was common for servicemen and women to receive an army challenge coin after completing a task or meeting with a high-ranking officer. They could also be awarded a challenge coin after demonstrating bravery in the line of duty. This award was often accompanied by a ceremony and a special presentation to commemorate the occasion. During World War II, members of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) used challenge coins to help identify each other while conducting covert operations in Nazi-held France. The OSS logo was placed on these coins to make them easily identifiable to others. It’s believed that when a young pilot was shot down behind enemy lines, his captors confiscated all his belongings except for the bronze medallion he wore around his neck. Luckily, the squadron insignia on his challenge coin helped him escape capture and save his life.
Today, many organizations use challenge coins to reward and build loyalty among their members. They’re popular with police and fire departments, sports teams, fraternal and civic groups, and advocacy organizations. Even the President of Fork Union Military Academy uses challenge coins to honor his fellow servicemen and women and create a sense of community for students.
A Personalized Keepsake
Whether in the military or business, teamwork is critical to success. When members or employees have gone above and beyond, rewarding them with a special keepsake to show their appreciation is excellent. Custom challenge coins are a great way to do just that! These unique pins are often used by police and fire departments, businesses, sports teams, and fraternal organizations to inspire a sense of camaraderie and brotherhood among their members. They can also be awarded to honor members for their accomplishments and achievements, such as a person’s success in an alcohol recovery program.
The tale of challenge coins’ origins is intriguing. Initially created as an identity token for a squadron of World War I fighter pilots, a wealthy lieutenant ordered medallions in bronze with the squadron’s emblem to be presented to each member so they could quickly identify each other. The tradition continued throughout various war eras and has become an iconic part of the American culture and military.
When you’re ready to create a military-style tradition for your organization, contact an enamel pins manufacturer specializing in creating challenge coins and other military-related products. Choose a company that offers customization options, including different materials to give your coins a distinct appearance. Choose brass to lend a vintage feel, or opt for nickel or pewter to add a more modern touch. A good designer can help you select the best option for your needs.