"Here's looking at you, kid." ~ Casablanca, 1942
On July 4th, 2006, Heidi was awarded a Commander’s Coin from Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander of Combined Joint Task Force. MG Freakley is THE top dog in Afghanistan. Looks like Heidi was one of only 10 soldiers (and the only female) in her squad singled out “For Excellence” or “In Recognition of Outstanding Performance”. Heidi couldn’t remember which and I had to drag this much information out of her as it was. The coin is in the shape of Afghanistan with the Afghan flag printed on the back. So far, I haven’t been able to locate a picture of one online.
The dim history of the Coins comes from when Kings, Parliaments and Congresses ordered special coins to be minted, usually as a reward for notable services, such as conquering countries, rooting out pirates, exploring the wilderness, etc - in the era before medals as we know them came to exist.
Did Heidi finally did stumble on some pirates?!
“Coins come in two varieties,” says my friend John of Castle Argghhh, “Challenge Coins and Commander's Coins. The one your daughter scored is a commander's coin. . It's given out at the whim of the commander - as a tangible reward for doing Good Stuff that perhaps doesn't quite rise to the level of a medal - or it might. It's not unknown to get both.”
John continued, “As an officer, you can collect a lot of coins, but they don't have the meaning they do for enlisted soldiers. I've scored a few in my day - but this is about average for an officer who ran things like simulation centers that trained a lot of units. I got a lot of coins from units pleased with their training experience - but the coins which were awarded to soldiers who did well in those events have greater emotional value to them - like your daughter's. It is something she should be proud of, as with everything, junior troops scoring a coin is a Big Deal.”
Additional Information from “Coining a Tradition”, Soldiers Magazine, Aug 94, Vol. 49, No 8, states: Coining is a relatively new U.S. military tradition, but has its roots in the Roman Empire, where coins were presented to reward achievements. In the U.S. military, the tradition goes back to the early 1960s. A member of the 11th Special Forces Group took old coins, had them over stamped with a different emblem, then presented them to unit members, according to Roxanne Merritt, curator of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum at Fort Bragg, N.C.
11th Special Forces Group Coin
A former commander of the 10th SFG picked up on the idea, becoming the first to mint a unit coin for a U.S. military unit.
10th Special Forces Group Coin
The 10th Group remained the only Army unit with its own coin until the mid-1980s, Merritt said, when "an explosion took place and everybody started minting coins." Originally, the coins, which bear the unit crest on the front and whatever design the unit wants on the back, were given out by commanders and sergeants major to recognize outstanding acts performed by soldiers in the course of duty. "They're a real morale booster and tell the soldier, 'you're a member of our unit' which builds unit cohesion. The soldiers carry their credit card, driver's license and unit coin - their wallets are permanently deformed."
Since Heidi doesn’t have a credit card OR a valid driver’s license with her in Afghanistan, she should be able to slip that coin right into that wallet!
My dear, Heidi. I have been proud of you every single day of your life. Yes, some days a little more than others, I admit. But I have never been more proud of you than I am today.
Bunches and bunches of love and prayers and counting the minutes until we see you again!