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Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out
(Photo: DVIDS)

By Lizann Lightfoot

A Marine sidles up to the bar, winks at his buddy, and tosses a large metal coin onto the bar. “That’s a General’s challenge coin,” he declares proudly. “I earned it in Afghanistan when I escorted the General’s convoy. Can anyone top that?”

The other service members at the bar shake their heads. Then a voice calls out, “Oh yeah? Here’s mine from the Commandant of the Marine Corps! I earned it when I served in the Silent Drill Platoon. You owe me a drink!”

Challenge coins are a unique military tradition. Service members collect coins from different duty stations or special assignments. In theory, they can be used to challenge someone for a free drink. In reality, most service members use their coins as souvenirs, displayed proudly on a wooden rack. The most valued challenge coins are earned from high military leadership. If you have a challenge coin from the Commandant of the Marine Corps, there isn’t much that can beat that!

Can you imagine military spouses having a conversation like this at a bar? As a military spouse, I only have one challenge coin, which I received from our CO after I planned the unit’s Christmas party. It wasn’t exactly the defining moment of my military spouse life. When military spouses get together and compare notes, we don’t use challenge coins. Instead, we try talk about stories of who had the longest deployment or the most challenging birth. Whether they realize it or not, most military spouses will collect at least one of these challenge coins:

1. Amazing Mama

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out
This coin is awarded to those who have given birth alone when their spouse is deployed and they are stationed far from family.

2. 365 Days and a Wakeup

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

All those spouses who have endured a year-long deployment, or even longer, have earned this coin. And yes, we know that two weeks of R&R doesn’t make it any easier.

3. Solo Survivor

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

This award is earned by completing a solo PCS, with or without children. Changing houses on your own is hard enough. Bonus points for doing it across multiple time zones or while pregnant.

4. Special Needs Servant

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

Many military spouses double as a special needs caregiver, either to their children or their wounded service member. This exhausting, thankless job deserves its own challenge coin.

5. Deployment Degree Earner

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

Kudos to you, military spouse, who goes back to school during deployment to earn a degree or professional certification!

6. Curse Breaker

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

When the deployment curse strikes with broken appliances, car trouble, unexpected house maintenance, and challenging yard work, these military spouses fight back with ingenuity and sheer willpower.

7. New Duty Station, 5th award

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

Moving once is hard. Moving three times is harder. By the time you reach your fifth duty station, you are a moving master.

8. Baby Whisperer

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

A special award to all those solo parents who have raised babies or toddlers alone. They have survived sleepless nights, teething, tantrums, potty training, and illnesses with a combination of parental love and military spouse grit.

9. Packing Paper Pusher

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

This challenge coin is for those amazing military spouses who are able to unpack all their household goods in 24 hours.

10. Party of One

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

Given to those who have found positive ways to celebrate holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries, even when their spouse was away.

11. Perfect Attendance

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

Because solo parents don’t get sick days, military spouses with this award have surviving being sick, even when the kids are not.

12. Natural Knack

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

One of these is earned for every natural disaster survived. Each duty station has a different deadly combination of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, mudslides, wildfires, or tsunamis.

13. Grief Guru

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

It is never easy to handle a death in the family, especially if you are stationed far away. This challenge coin goes to those who have attended funerals alone.

14. Hardship Tour

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

Some duty stations are more challenging than others. Certain special duty assignments like recruiting or drill instructor require a lot more patience from the military spouse. One coin can be earned per hardship assignment.

15. Fearless Flyer

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

This award goes to those brave parents who fly internationally with kids, without their spouse or another adult. Bonus points for using Space A travel.

16. True Professional

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

Frequent moves require military spouses to change jobs often. This coin is for anyone who has held a variety of jobs, restarted their entire career, or updated professional certifications to stay certified in multiple states.

17. Steel Trap

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

Military life requires spouses to memorize lots of numbers, including all their past zip codes and their spouse’s social security number. This challenge coin is yours if you get them all right on the first try!

18. Mandatory Schmandatory

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

Spouses can earn this award by surviving the unit’s mandatory fun day events with their sanity intact.

19. Care package commando

Here are 19 challenge coins milspouses should be handing out

This coin is awarded to the military spouse who spends endless hours making and sending Pinterest-worthy care packages. Their efforts improve unit morale and make the troops a little more comfortable during deployment.

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