AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy (AFNS) — Throughout the time we spend in the military, we collect many things. Whether they are mementos, awards or habits, such items are kept to remember those special moments we never wish to forget. Challenge coins are an example of these memories, as they are a form of recognition of the hard work and excellence an individual has displayed.

From coins presented by the president, a chief master sergeant or a first sergeant, their value is determined by each individual, but the true history of the challenge coin dates back to World War I, when an American pilot was shot down and captured in Germany.

While escaping from the grasp of the Germans, the pilot made his way to France, where they believed he was a spy and sentenced him to be executed. To prove his identity and save his life, he revealed a bronze medallion with his flying squadron’s emblem, confirming that he was an American pilot. The French spared his life and celebrated by giving him a bottle of wine instead.

After this incident, it became a tradition that all members of the squadron carried their medallion, sparking challenge coins to become a trademark for military tradition and pride.

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