In recognition of the unit pride and esprit de corps enjoyed civil servants of all types, Weslaco’s Daily Grind is bringing a military tradition to you!
Presenting this coin provides you with a 10% discount on your entire purchase.
History of the Challenge Coin
According to the Department of Defense, a challenge coin in the military is meant to instill “unit pride, improve esprit de corps and reward hard work and excellence.”
There are numerous stories of how the tradition originated, and some of them date back a hundred years or more. Outside of the military, even Alcoholic Anonymous uses them to challenge their members to stay sober. Where did the practice of creating challenge coins begin? That’s a “tradition” all by itself.
The most common story for American Military challenge coins dates from WWI and the Army Air Service. A rich Lieutenant is said to have created the coins in bronze to give to each man in his command. The story gets fuzzy when either the Lt himself or a young pilot placed the coin in a small leather pouch around his neck.
His plane received heavy damage from ground fire, and was forced to land behind enemy lines, where he was quickly captured by a German patrol. All of his identification was taken…except the small leather pouch around his neck. The Germans transported him to a French town near the front.
During a night time bombardment, the man managed to find civilian clothes and escape. When he got to a French outpost, they didn’t recognize his accent and thought he was a saboteur. They delayed his execution just long enough for him to identify himself with the coin which revealed his unit as Army Air Service. One of the outpost members recognized the insignia on the coin. He was given a bottle of wine instead of a hail of bullets.
After he returned to his squadron, it became a tradition for all members to carry their coins.
There are many other stories about the possible origin of the challenge coin. Another story states that the tradition started in Vietnam, when an Army infantry-run bar tried to keep non-infantrymen away by forcing “outsiders” to buy drinks for the whole bar if they couldn’t prove they had been in combat. The “proof” started with enemy bullets, then got a little out of control with grenades, rockets and unexploded ordnance. So a coin-sized item emblazoned with the unit’s insignia became the accepted form of proof.
This tradition – now known as a coin check – continues today, hence it being called a “challenge” coin.
There are many different versions of the origin of the coins. They are a sought after collector’s item and source of pride for military service members, identifying the units of service across all branches.