During World War 1, American volunteers filled the newly formed flying squadrons. In one squadron, a wealthy lieutenant ordered medallions struck in solid bronze and presented them to his unit. One young pilot placed his medallion in a small leather pouch that he wore about his neck.
Later, his aircraft was severely damaged by ground fire. He was forced to land behind enemy lines and was immediately captured by a German patrol. In order to discourage his escape, the Germans took all of his personal identification except for the small leather pouch around his neck. In the meantime, he was taken to a small French town near the front. Taking advantage of a bombardment that night, he escaped. However, he was without personal identification.
He succeeded in avoiding German patrols by donning civilian attire and reached the front lines. He crossed no-man’s land and onto a French outpost. Saboteurs had plagued the French in the sector, sometimes masquerading as civilians. Not recognizing the young pilot’s American accent, the French thought him to be a saboteur and made ready to execute him. He had no identification to prove his allegiance, but he did have his leather pouch containing the medallion. He showed the medallion to his would-be executioners and one of his French captors recognized the squadron insignia on the medallion. They delayed his execution long enough for him to confirm his identity. Instead of shooting him they gave him a bottle of wine.
It became squadron tradition that all members carried their medallion at all times. This was accomplished through challenge in the following manner – a challenger would ask to see the medallion. If the challenged could not produce his medallion, they were required to buy a drink of choice for the member who challenged them. If the challenged member produced his medallion, the challenging member was required to pay for the drink. This tradition continued and was adopted by other elite units.
A “Coin Check” Consists of a Challenge and a Response
- The challenge is initiated by drawing your coin, holding it in the air and state, scream, shout or otherwise verbally pronounceÂ that you are initiating a coin check. Another method is to firmly place it on the bar, table or floor, but which can audibly heard by those challenged.
- If you accidentally drop your coin and it makes an audible sound on impact, then you have just initiated a coin check. This is the price for improper care of your coin.
- The response consists of all those persons being challenged drawing their coin in a like manner. Other organizational or commemorative coins are not valid – the response coin must match the challenge coin!
- If you are challenged and are unable to properly respond, you must buy a round of drinks for the challenger and for the group being challenged.
- If everyone being challenged produces the correct response coin the challenger must buy a round of drinks for the group challenged.
- Coin checks are permitted anytime, anyplace and anywhere!
- There are no exceptions to the rules. They apply to those clothed or unclothed.
- Challengees are permitted one step and one arm reach to produce the correct coin.
- Coins attached to belt buckles are considered belt buckles. Coins on key chains are considered key chains. Coins worn around the neck are considered coins.
- Regardless of any “coin regulation,” most prefer to carry their coins, not only to show unit pride, but also to save money on the drinks they may have to buy if caught without it.
The “Golden Brigade” Challenge Coin
John Chuldenko, a B 1/17 Cavalry Trooper, had been reassigned as the Brigade illustrator. Upon notification of the Brigade’s return to the United States in 1969 a challenge coin was ordered struck and within 3 days he had designed what would soon become our original coin. The coin was issued only to those Troopers serving in the second year and, as such, is considered extremely rare.
The front of the coin displays a Combat Infantryman Badge, AA (All American) and Combat Paratrooper Wings. The obverse reads: ” NOTHING IS DEARER THAN LIFE BUT NOTHING IS MORE PRECIOUS THAN TO LIVE IT IN FREEDOM”
After the 35th Anniversary reunion of the Brigade’s deployment to Vietnam a new coin was commissioned. It is similar to the first coin, but with a few changes: it is slightly larger; and is hand-enameled in color. It is available only to Golden Brigade memebers.
Never, ever be caught without your coin!
The Golden Brigade Challenge coin and the Golden Brigade seal, including any facsimiles thereof, may not be reproduced without prior written permission of the Golden Brigade.
Copyright 1995–2013 by the Golden Brigade Chapter of the 82nd Airborne Division Association, Inc., all rights reserved.