Military Challenge Coins

Written by AHQ

24 July 2014

Tonight we have a guest author who I will allow to introduce herself.  
If you enjoy her writing, and I certainly did, then we need to think of some more subjects for her to write about so we can enjoy her efforts more often.  


By way of introduction, my name is Jacqui. I am one of the many who have been charmed by JM’s cooking, and been so impressed with the fantastic job AHQ-ers have been doing.
I am married to a wonderful guy called Dan. We are both serving members in the RAAF, and are quite ‘used’ to not being in the same location/country. There is a great unspoken understanding between serving members;  we all look and act tough, but honestly, we all get homesick.
When asked, most of us will shrug it off and say it’s the life we chose, but secretly, most of us are jealous that ‘normal’ people and their families spend every Christmas together or pop over to their parents’ house for home cooked meals etc.  When deployed, or away for work, these feelings hit a little harder and we all discover we are purely marshmallows.
It was during my husband’s fourth deployment that he discovered AHQ.  He saw some of the fantastic quilts, and being a huge fan of Dr Who, he requested a Dr Who themed quilt.  Dan was fortunate enough to receive a quilt made by Julie Ann. You see, JA’s secret specialty is Dr Who themed quilts, although I think she is kind of getting sick of them 😉
Well, there was going to be a payoff.  Because of the time frame, it wouldn’t make it overseas in time, and Dan would personally have to pick up the quilt from JM’s house…lucky for us.   JA was flying up from Adelaide (Dan’s hometown!) and we were able to meet both fantastic ladies one afternoon.

There is a down side to this story.  If any of you have been to JM’s house, or had parcels from her, you would know what I mean by the following statement: If you visit JM, be assured you will have to run an extra five kilometres to stay under your BMI!  Seriously, JM’s cooking is so awesome and moreish… I feel like an addict, need more!
Having said that, when JM asked if anybody could help her out and write a story for the blog, I offered… There better be brownies in this deal by the way!
So without further delay, the following is a quick little story about challenge/military coins.
Without kids of our own, our niece and two nephews do get a little spoilt when we see them, and also know that occasionally one of us may be away for a while. They don’t notice how often we are gone, as they live in WA and we are here in NSW,  but they do know Uncle Danny has been away a couple of times for long periods, most recently for 7 months. During his last deployment, Dan wanted the family to send him something to do, and so everyone started sending him lego sets.  Much to the dismay of one of my nephews “but is says ages 4-12! Uncle Danny is older than 12!”  and  “I’m four, can’t I have it?” …..
“Uncle Danny has something special for you guys which he has sent all the way from the Middle East!”  The three kids were listening in anticipation.   Where is the middle east?  What is he doing there?  But most importantly, what is it??? To see all this lego disappear to a faraway place, there must be something grand coming back!  Uncle Danny said so!
Dan had ordered each of the kids a coin from his deployment. He had mentioned that he was getting the kids one, and my two brother-in-laws asked why they weren’t getting one. So Dan asked the whole family, who wants a coin? Much to our surprise, everyone in the family said yes.
It is safe to say both sides of our families have a limited understanding of the military, but they all understand a military coin is pretty special.  To a 4, 5 and 9 year old, the meaning of a military coin isn’t so clear, but such a love and respect they have for their uncle, they understood it was special.

“Make sure you carry it on you, cause if I come and visit and you can’t show me you have it in your pocket, you owe me a drink!” Was the message the kids received, and straight away Elisa put it in her school bag for show and tell. For a while anytime Dan or I was on skype with them, all three would run and grab their coin.

One of my sisters had no understanding of these coins two years ago, but after her business supported a fundraiser for Australia’s Federation Guard she was sent one as a thank you.  I explained to her a military coin or challenge coin as they are also known, is pretty special in some circles. Granted the significance is bigger in the US Military circles, but they are pretty important here too.
Coins generally are a heart felt thank you, or job well done (also known as a Bravo Zulu), given by superiors to other ranks to praise and thank.  Sometimes a coin is hidden in a handshake, so as not to embarrass the recipient.  Sometimes its a big presentation done on deployment or back at the home base.
The significance of the coins has grown here, and for most members its pretty special to receive one.  Not everyone gets a coin from the hierarchy!   I myself have been fortunate enough to receive on from the Minister of Defence whilst in East Timor-  its a bit larger then the normal size, and was presented in its own box.  It currently sits with other RAAF memorabilia, and brings back some fond memories of my trip to East Timor.
The history of a challenge coin, they say, dates back between 50 and 100 years. Most documented story is from World War one, where a US pilot was forced to land in hostile territory. The American was able to escape and when the French soldiers confronted him, they were convinced he was a German. He pleaded for his life and showed a unit coin he had in his pocket.  The French Officer immediately recognised the insignia on the coin and postponed any plans to take the American’s life until his identity was validated.  Later, the pilot was released, and the legend has it that the challenge coin presented to his would-be French executioner saved his life.
With such a powerful history, you can probably now understand the significance of receiving a challenge coin.


What follows are some of the coins that Jacqui has received!  

Thanks so much Jacqui.  Brownes are a given……….as soon as you have passed your next Fitness Test.  

Till next time………………keep spreading the word and happy stitching!  JMxx

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  1. cahirasnana

    L overly story Jacqui, looking forward to your next guest post.

  2. Sue Niven

    Loved this post. A super good read. Well done.


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