The history of the challenge coin goes back all the way to World War I when a lieutenant ordered bronze coins for his platoon. In a brutal battle with the Germans, one man decided to keep his coin in a leather pouch around his neck when he was captured. Unfortunately, they decided to take everything from the man except his leather pouch. After he escaped, the French found him and they realized the insignia of the unit on the coin. This is why today service members as a tradition carry Challenge Coins.
The Challenge Coin Ceremony is a very touching moment. When I was in the service, I was fortunate enough to receive some challenge coins. All of them are different because they are personal to that specific individual or the unit.
At Vanguard University, they invite the local Veterans community to come on-campus for a Challenge Coin Ceremony to recognize our graduating Veterans. This is one of my favorite things about VU because it really shows they honor Veterans along with their spouses and dependents.
It was a blessing to also have Pastor Frank Orzio (a two time Purple Heart Recipient, Vietnam Marine veteran, and founder of Wounded Warrior Ministries) and Jim Torres (commander of the Veterans Department of California) speak as a part of the program.
The student speaker was Chris Merkle, who shared his testimony and experience in the Marines and transitioning into civilian life. He shared about working as a policeman and yet still wanting to help his fellow veterans who struggled with PTSD. That led him to enroll in Vanguard University so that he can receive his BA in Psychology and eventually pursuing his Master’s and Doctorate.
I personally do not believe I would have been able to get this far in school without this support of Veterans. As a Junior, I still have one more year left, but I have gone to this Challenge Coin ceremony every year since I’ve been here. It’s an awesome time to congratulate Veterans who are moving to that next step in life.
It’s never a farewell to any of these soldiers; they are forever friendships to me.