Semper Fi Challenge Coins
Military challenge coins are a symbolic reminder of the very strong bond between marines. Semper Fi (always faithful) are the words a marine lives and dies by. Marines live together, eat together, train together, fight and die together. The lifelong bond that develops between marines is as strong as or stronger than the bond between mother and child. Military challenge coins help to reaffirm this bond.
Military coins are usually manufactured out of brass or other metals. They can also be made with enamel or photographic inserts on one side. There are a wide variety of designs and styles. Some challenge coins are silver plated, some feature high relief and others are very simple. All are designed to be given to marines as a symbol of their camaraderie, faith and pride in their unit. The challenge coins usually will show the unit name, marine insignia and year. They come in various sizes and colors and are personalized for each group of marines.
The exact origin of the military challenge coin is not easy to pinpoint. Some accounts trace it back as far as the Civil War, when soldiers going off to battle would be given a special coin to carry with them. Away from home, the young man used the coin as a reminder of why he was fighting.
Another scenario says that during World War One, an American soldier, carrying a coin made for each member of his squadron, was found by the French army. Upon showing his coin, he was welcomed with a bottle of wine. Over the years, a tradition grew amongst members of the same unit to show their challenge coin. If they could not produce it, they would have to buy the marine who made the challenge a drink. If they showed the challenge coin, they got the free drink.
Yet another variation of how the Marine challenge coin developed comes from the Vietnam War era. A group of marines enjoying a little distraction from the war would find themselves in a local bar. The first marine would take out his special challenge coin and slam it on the bar. All of the others would follow. The last of the group had to buy a round for everyone.
Today, challenge coins are often traded and exchanged. It is a sentimental way to remember good friends long after they have left the Service. Veterans display collections of challenge coins from all their friends.
They are after all, “the few, the proud, the Marines.”