Monday, February 23, 2004

Coin of the Realm 
The First Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, Florida Army National Guard--The Hurricane Battalion--furled its regimental colors today. The first time we’ve done that since the end of WWII, when the 124th Infantry Regiment served in the New Guinea and Philippine campaigns.

Brigadier General Swannack, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, appeared before a battalion mass formation, and gave a few remarks to some very cold troopers, and then handed things over to Colonel “Buck” Connors, the commander of the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division—our higher headquarters unit since they arrived here in Ar Ramadi in September of this year.

Colonel Connor also gave a few short remarks, and pinned some purple hearts and bronze stars on some selected soldiers, but he also did something extra.

The First Brigade, First Infantry Division (“The Big, Red One,” for you Mark Hamill and Lee Marvin fans) had commemorative coins minted, and awarded one to each and every soldier in the Hurricane Battalion.

Now, in the Army, commemorative coins aren’t like Elvis plates on late night TV commercials. Traditionally, a General officer or a sergeant major at Division level or above will spend hundreds of dollars, out of his own pocket, and have some coins minted with his unit logo and some other heraldry on it. And if he comes across an exceptional soldier doing a great job, he’ll award him a coin on the spot.

These coins mean a lot to the Joes.

Further, units themselves will mint a coin for special occasions, or elite groups within the Army will create a coin. And for the rest of your life, if you’re in a bar, and another old soldier “challenges” you by putting his coin on the bar in front of you, and you don’t have your coin, then the next round is on you.

(It’s on him if you have your coin after all).

Certificates are easy, and you’ll either lose it, or you’ll hang it on the wall or put it in a scrapbook someplace, and forget about it.

The Brigade coin is something these guys will carry for the rest of their lives.

I thought it was a classy gesture from a very classy unit.

Here’s to ya, Red Devils. Thanks.

And good luck.

Splash, out


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