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Coins, veterans, and first responders

Mountain View Funeral Home, Memorial Park and Crematory offers service medallions and first responder coins. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Challenge coins are a tangible source of pride that extends back to the Greek and Roman armies.

Some historians have commented on the fact that these soldiers carried coins to commemorate battles as proof of their bravery and unity in confronting an enemy.

The record on the history of these coins became clearer during World War I.

A wealthy young lieutenant wanted to give every man in his unit something to remember their time together so he had a number of coins minted.

The officer -- who was a pilot -- was shot down over Germany and soon captured. The aviator was stripped of his possessions, except for his coin which he wore as a necklace.

He escaped his captors and made his way toward French forces. They thought the pilot was an enemy officer and prepared to execute him. When one of the French officers saw the lieutenant's coin, he recognized its significance and spared his life.

There are several other histories about the coming of challenge coins, but they all point to one message: A coin is a symbol of shared duty and sacrifice that honors the man or woman to whom it is presented.

After 9/11 -- and the sacrifices of the 343 firefighters (including a chaplain and two paramedics), 37 police officers of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department, 23 police officers of the New York Police Department, eight emergency medical technicians and paramedics from private emergency medical services, and one patrolmen from the New York Fire Patrol -- the tradition was extended to bestowing challenge coins to first responders.

"There are so many first responders who'll put themselves in harm's way to save lives," said Chief James Bonzano, Arlington County Fire Department, in a recent article. 

Today, challenge coins honor the work and sacrifices made not only by servicemembers but by first responders as well.

Mountain View Funeral Home, Memorial Park and Crematory continues this tradition through the offering of free service medallions to all veterans and first responders for their service and sacrifices.

The medallion is 1.75 inches in diameter and is made of solid brass with an enamel finish on both sides.

The medallions are free to veterans and first responders. Mountain View will arrange to have the coin delivered directly to the veteran or first responder.

"The service medallion we present to veterans and first responders is very much like the challenge coins they received while serving their country and communities," said David Sweet, Mountain View's family and community service manager.

"We offer the service medallion as our way of honoring these individuals and all they do for us."

Veterans and first responders can receive their free service medallion and a pre-planning guide by calling 253.240.3627 or by visiting

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