The Military Custom of Challenge Coins
Challenge coins are well-known in the armed forces, but somewhat mysterious to civilians. The history of challenge coins is thought to date back as far as Ancient Rome, when soldiers were presented with their wages and an additional coin minted with the legion’s mark—making it more of a memento of their service rather than simply a form of payment.
Today challenge coins are used in modern military practices, including special achievements or promotions in rank. Units also will give coins to other units who help with training or other support. Sometimes soldiers use challenge coins as a form of identification confirming their unit. Many service members collect coins throughout their years in the military, and beyond.
The practice has spread beyond the military as well, with government officials like senators, the President, and the Secretary of Defense using this tradition to express their appreciation to service members.
“You earn a challenge coin,” explained Levi Crawford, RoR marketing director and a Purple Heart veteran, who collected several coins during his time in the Army National Guard. “There’s meaning behind it. Receiving a challenge coin is an honor.”
Coins are often exchanged via a simple handshake. For example, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates toured military bases in Afghanistan in June 2011, shaking hands with dozens of men and women in the Armed Forces. What looked like a typical interaction to an outsider was actually a secret exchange where recipients received a special Secretary of Defense challenge coin.
The Challenge of Challenge Coins
The “challenge” involved in challenge coins evolved back in World War II—where a group of soldiers would go to a bar, and one person would pull out a coin and put it on the table. The challenge is for the others to do the same. If someone doesn’t have a coin, they pay for the round of drinks. If everyone has a coin, then the person with the lowest ranking coin pays.
Rivers of Recovery is proud to continue this tradition. All donors who sign up to contribute $25/month or more will receive our specially minted Rivers of Recovery challenge coin.
“It’s a small way to make a large impact,” Levi said. “Your $25 has a huge impact on us and the veterans we serve. The Rivers of Recovery challenge coin is a way for us to express our appreciation for our monthly donors.”
Your generous donations help ensure we are able to offer our program at no cost to participants, plus you’re supporting our efforts to continually improve and expand the national presence of our programs to include more of our nation’s military heroes.
If you’re looking for a small way to make a big difference for veterans, consider a monthly pledge to Rivers of Recovery.
Click here to sign up for a reoccurring donation via our secure website.