The military challenge coin has become one of the most prestigious military and first responder markers of rank and camaraderie.
Did you know that more than 20% of veterans who served in either Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from severe PTSD and/or depression?
What about the fact that, when many veterans return from their service, they feel as if no one appreciates the sacrifices that they've made for their country?
Whether you have a veteran in the family, or just wish you could do more to show our members of the military how much you appreciate what they've done, there is one simple act that means a lot: giving a military challenge coin.
What are challenge coins, and how will they help to show appreciation -- and support -- for those who have served?
Keep on reading to find out.
A Brief History of Military Coins
Let’s quickly discuss how the concept of a military challenge coin came about in the first place.
There are two main conflicting narratives surrounding the birth of challenge coins -- and you can believe whichever one you would like.
The Wealthy Pilot
Some people think the tradition got started when a wealthy member of the American Air Force in World War One wanted to thank the men in his unit for serving alongside him.
He had bronze coins created for each man in his unit so that they would always remember their time together. He wore his coin in a pouch around his neck, and it protected him and made him feel close to everyone who fought alongside him.
Unfortunately, his plane was shot down, and he was captured by German soldiers. He escaped, but the Germans stole everything but the pouch around his neck, which they hadn't noticed.
While on the run, he came across some French soldiers, who assumed he was German and planned to shoot him. He then showed these French soldiers his medallion, which had the American insignia around his neck.
His challenge coin saved his life.
The Vietnam Challenge
Other people believe the tradition of U.S. Army challenge coins began much more recently, during the Vietnam War.
One of a unit's favorite ways to pass the time was to head to a local bar while on leave or at the end of the day. The goal was to be able to prove that you'd been in combat. In some cases, they would hold up enemy bullets in the bar.
If anyone couldn't prove that they'd served, as a way to say "thank you”, they'd need to buy all those that had served a drink.
Soon, soldiers and veterans alike started making challenge coins, and the tradition evolved into the "coin check" challenge many of us are familiar with today.
The Modern Meanings of a Military Challenge Coin
It goes without saying that the meaning of a challenge coin usually contains a sentiment that's directly related to the history of the person receiving it.
There are challenge coins for all different branches of the armed forces, and there are even designs created to build camaraderie between those who have served in medical units in the army.
In the past, challenge coins were mostly seen as a way to create a greater sense of belonging and teamwork within units.
In today's world, though, they've taken on an additional meaning -- one that has saved countless lives.
Mental Health and Challenge Coins
In addition to PTSD and depression, as well as any physical injuries sustained in combat, there's another very real threat to the safety of veterans -- suicide.
Sadly, many vets don't always have access to the mental health care they need to process the complex and often frightening emotions that living in dangerous situations -- and seeing difficult traumatic events -- causes. Some cannot cope, and opt to take their own lives.
We know that you'll do anything to stop a veteran -- whether or not they're a member of your family or friend -- from doing this.
While it's important to familiarize yourself with the signs that someone might be suicidal, there is something else you can also do.
Many people give veterans challenge coins to help ease the transition back into civilian life. These gifts for veterans carry an especially beautiful meaning. They let the veteran know that, should they ever need to talk or ask for help, you'll be there for them.
They don't need to do anything more than simply slide their coin across the table to you, or show it to you. When they do, you'll be ready to listen to what they're going through. If they need immediate help, giving someone a coin means that you are ready to be the person they rely on.
It's a powerful and life-saving gift.
Are You Looking to Buy Challenge Coins Online?
We hope that this post has helped you to better understand the meaning and prestige behind the idea of the military challenge coin.
Whether your goal is to tell a soldier that you're always willing to listen to them, or if you want to build friendships in your unit, a challenge coin always makes a great gift.
Remember that these coins aren't exclusively reserved for members of the military. They also make wonderful gifts for members of the police force, firemen and women, and others who help to protect and serve our country and communities.
Additionally, they're wonderful ways to promote a brand or even build teamwork among your employees.
Spend some time browsing through our gallery of custom and pre-made challenge coins, and consider ordering some for the people you care about.