Pine Bluffs Post - Serving all of Eastern Laramie County since 1908

Honor Coin for a Veterans family


September 19, 2019

Courtesy of V. Smithey

Front of the Honor coin.

The idea of the challenge coin can possibly be dated back to ancient Rome. It is said that if a soldier performed well during battle he would be paid his daily wages plus one extra coin. Some historians say that the extra coin was specially stamped with the legion that it came from, and many of the soldiers would save that particular coin.

It's unclear where the modern practice of handing out coins comes from. There is a story of a wealthy officer from World War I that had bronze medallions made with his flying squadrons insignia on them to award to his men. According to the story, one of the men was shot down and taken as a prisoner and his captors happened to miss the coin in the leather pouch around his neck. When this young soldier escaped he made his way to France where he was mistaken as a spy. The soldier presented his coin as a form of identification, and was subsequently allowed to return to his unit when the coin was recognized.

The earliest challenge coin that can be recorded was minted by Colonel "Buffalo Bill" Quinn. Quinn had the coin minted for the 17th Infantry Regiment during the Korean War. The coin had a buffalo on one side and the regiment's insignia on the other, and a hole drilled in the top so that the men could wear them around their necks without the leather pouch.

After time it became common place to "challenge" other service members to produce their coins. During World War II American soldiers would do "pfenning checks". When soldiers would come to the bar everyone would be challenged to produce a pfenning, which was the lowest denomination of currency in Germany. If a soldier could not produce a pfenning he was stuck with buying the drinks for all the others. Eventually the pfenning was replaced with the unit medallion and the "coin challenge" was born.

Penny Merryfield/Pine Bluffs Post

Tom Morgan stands for the flag at the Flag Day ceremony.

In Pine Bluffs, Wyoming one soldier has risen to the coin challenge in a much different manner. Korean Veteran Tom Morgan came up with the idea of presenting a coin to the families of service members that have passed. Morgan felt that this was one of the ways that Donald Eisenhauer Legion Post #60 could honor its soldiers and sailors. "To salute the passing of that veteran, by giving the coin to the family, that's how the honor guard honors that veteran." Morgan said.

At this time, this Legion Post is the only one in the state that has this practice, and Morgan can be proud of a tradition that has lasted for the last seven years. Morgan, himself, was able to hand out the very first coin to the family of veteran Bub Grieber. A proud and humble member of the local Honor Guard, Tom Morgan can be sure that the tradition he started will continue well beyond even his own passing.


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