April 24, 2009

Association now offers Military Challenge Coin

by Kathy Dillard

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The SIU Alumni Association is now offering a Military Challenge Coin as an additional benefit for becoming a member. The coined is designed specially for graduates of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s off-campus military base programs.

There are 37 off-campus programs affiliated with SIUC. The coin, which includes the seals of all five United States military branches, is truly a unique piece for Saluki service men and women everywhere.

Laura Taylor, director of member services states, “The SIU Alumni Association is proud to offer this coin to graduates of SIUC’s off-campus military base programs, as a way of connecting their unique collegiate experience back to Southern. It is a symbol of tradition and pride that any military service person would be proud to own.”

The military coin tradition began in the U.S. Army Air Force (a forerunner to the current U.S. Air Force) during World War I. A wealthy lieutenant gave pilots small, bronze medallions to signify their service together. One pilot wore the coin around his neck for safe-keeping, but when his plane went down behind enemy lines, he was captured by the Germans. They confiscated all personal belongings, except the coin, which after escaping he used to prove his allegiance to the French so that he was not executed. Once the pilot safely returned, it became a tradition for service men and women to carry their coin at all times. To ensure compliance, the pilots would challenge each other to produce the coin.

For more information and to view the coin, please visit www.siualumni.com/challengecoin. Current members interested in purchasing a coin can call the office at 618.453.2408 or send an email to alumni@siu.edu.