The Military Challenge Coin Tradition

Caroline Bennitt Around Atec 0 Comments

Members of The Military have a time-honored tradition of carrying a special coin symbolizing unit identity. These coins have long ignited camaraderie on another level among our service-men, and continue to live up to their names as “challenge coins.”

U.S. Military Challenge Coins

U.S. Military Challenge Coins

The challenge coins, each unique in logo and script are carried by many soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, as well as lawmen and firefighters who practice “coining” as a way to challenge each other. These coins identify the bearer as a member of a particular unit with a well-defined history and mission. Coin holders challenge each other to see if they can show their coins, (which should be on one’s person at all times) when randomly asked to do so. It is customary for a service-man who could not produce a challenge coin to buy a drink for the challenger. If he did produce the coin, the challenger was then responsible to pay for the drink.

The official Atec Challenge Coin

The official Atec Challenge Coin

There are a few stories as to how the challenge coin gained its popularity. Some believe it originated in World War I when Yale and Harvard Students quit school to join as service-men. A lieutenant in their squadron provided his unit with the bronze coins, which were kept on their person in a leather pouch. One pilot’s aircraft was damaged, and upon capture by German patrol, he was stripped of all personal identification. The only thing left on his person was the leather pouch containing the coin. He managed to escape German capture that night and stumbled onto a French outpost. The French initially restrained him as an enemy combatant. Luckily, he used his coin to convince them he wasn’t a saboteur and his execution was postponed long enough for him to prove his identity. His life was spared and he was presented with a bottle of wine for his troubles. Because of this, members of the squadron started carrying their medallions/coins at all times.

Another popular story is a belief is that it originated during World War II when soldiers were given coins to keep on their person and kept the coin thereafter as a reminiscence of the war and their service.
It was mainly during the Vietnam War that the popularity of the coins spread in large numbers.

Atec is proud to carry on this long-standing tradition of unity, camaraderie and service by sharing its own challenge coin. Visit our Atec Facebook page to enter our contest to win an official Atec Challenge Coin.

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