The tradition of handing out challenge coins to enlisted men in military forces has popularized the minting of custom coins. These coins are engraved with the insignias and mottos of different military branches. They are issued to men and women who dedicate their service to protect the nation.
For military personnel, these custom coins are symbols of unit affiliation, brotherhood, and commitment. They represent every battle they fought, every mission they took, and every victory they won. They are the embodiment of their pride as freedom fighters and protectors.
Military coins are given to members of the Armed Forces which include the Army, Marines, Air Force, and Navy. They are considered honor coins and conferred to military personnel for their valiant acts during dangerous missions. They are called honor coins because they are given to those who went beyond their duties and risked their lives to win battles. They serve as recognition of the sacrifices rendered by these men in uniform.
These custom coins are small but priceless symbols of bravery and heroism of men and women in military units. They recognize the exemplary feats they achieve while doing their duties. They are also given to retired military officers who have done remarkable contributions.
During award ceremonies, these coins are presented to the rank and file by their commanding officers to acknowledge their selfless acts and heroic deeds. Military challenge coins are the epitome of sterling qualities of brave men and women who sacrifice their lives to serve the nation. This is the reason why these metal medallions are special. They are tokens of honor, respect, and gratitude.
Military coins are designed differently to distinguish each unit of the Armed Forces. Every unit has its own shape, design and material based on the symbolism they want to convey. However, the purpose behind them all remains the same – to salute the dedicated service of soldiers and recognize their commitment and courage.
Traditional military challenge coins are usually star-shaped, eagle-shaped, or round. Other symbols and mottos are added to enhance the significance of custom coins. They are made of metals such as platinum, gold, silver or bronze. Special recognitions need more exclusive designs to celebrate the occasion.
The traditional way to pass military challenge coins is through a special handshake. This covert way is unknown to the audience who only see the usual shaking of hands between a military official and a soldier. Sometimes, even recipients are surprised with the gesture. Earning challenge coins is one of the best rewards while in service. These coins are proof that their dedication to duty is appreciated.
High-ranking military officials sometimes surprise soldiers during their visit because they like giving challenge coins on a whim. Soldiers who get the attention of these officers usually find envelopes in their desks containing special coins. They convey a positive message, encouraging soldiers to keep up the good work and to show dedication to their duties.
In 2011, Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Afghanistan and toured military bases. He shook hands with military guards manning these vital facilities. To the delight of these men and women, he shared with them special challenge coins, mainly to extend his gratitude for the service they rendered.
This secret handshake tradition of handing metal tokens was accounted to a story that originated during Second Boer War (battle of British and South Africans). British officials hired mercenaries to fight with them against the enemies. But they cannot reward them with medals because of their mercenary status. So, non-commissioned officers would steal medals given to military officers and cut the medallions. The small medallions would then be passed to deserving mercenaries through handshake. The silent recognition is as meaningful as public recognition.
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