The Meaning Behind Your Grandfather’s Military Challenge Coin

Challenge coins are a very popular way of acknowledging allegiance. These small, usually round metal coins serve many purposes. In the military these coins are often used to identify an individual’s allegiance to a military unit. The coins are also used as a morale builder. These decorative coins provide individuals with incentives such as free alcohol.

One popular story surrounding the history of the challenge coin comes from the Vietnam War era. During that era, infantry run bars always asked to see either enemy bullets or challenge coins before serving alcohol. The heaviness of the enemy bullets collected may have triggered the need for the challenge coins. The challenge coins were definitely easier to carry around and could be marked to signify the military unit the individual belonged to and what branch of the service he served.

Morale was an important component in the jungles of Vietnam. Challenge coins gave individual soldiers a great sense of belonging when it seemed everything was falling apart. One of the ways these coins were utilized during the Vietnam War was what was called a “coin check.” The coin check often provided the members of military units with free alcohol. One popular variation, and there are a few, was where an individual shouted “coin check” and everyone had to produce theirs or risk buying a round of drinks.

After the Vietnam War, challenge coins didn’t go out of style. They continued to be used during the Persian Gulf War and the war in Afghanistan. The fact is they grew in popularity as more organizations noticed how the veterans loved to collect and share them. It was during this time period that challenge coin exchanges happened. These coin exchanges are still going strong today. The popularity of these challenge coins is partly due to the prestige attached to them. It is also a good way to recognize individuals as part of a group.

Challenge coins are often presented to note a special achievement in a military unit. These achievements could be heroic action in the battlefield, bravery in the line of fire or extraordinary achievements within the military unit. Challenge coins can also be exchanged to acknowledge specific actions or to commemorate a specific event. Challenge coins are traditionally used to mark an individual as a member of a military unit.

The challenge coin does have a very long and interesting history. The first mention of a challenge coin was in Ancient Rome. The ancient Roman soldier received coins as recognition for heroic deeds. The next reoord of use was during WWI for identification purposes. Challenge coins are still being used today to both identify individuals in an organization and to recognize achievements.

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