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Since its founding, America, American interests, and American values have been under nearly constant threat. Brave men and women in every generation have been called upon to defend their country against those threats, serving honorably under very different circumstances and on all continents.
Over time, Americans have developed numerous ways to honor those who served. Some examples of the ways that Americans honor veterans are through holidays like Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and Armed Forces Day, various foundations such as the Fisher House Foundation, and, of particular interest to us and our customers, coins.
The U.S. Mint has issued several modern commemoratives to honor those currently serving and those who have previously served. Such coins fall broadly into one of four categories: war, branch, individual, and special interest.
The largest category of issued coins is those that commemorate specific wars. The first such coin was a 1991 silver dollar commemorating the Korean War. A surcharge from the coin was used to erect a memorial in Washington, DC. Issued as both a business strike and a proof, the coin featured a soldier climbing a hill with his rifle, planes flying overhead, and naval vessels on the obverse and a map of a divided Korea next to an eagle head on the reverse. Two years later, three coins were issued to mark fifty years since World War II, though there was some controversy over the dates. The $.50, $1, and $5 coins were released in 1993 but showed a date range of 1991-1995, leaving some wondering precisely what anniversary was being commemorated. Subsequent coins in this category include one for Vietnam Veterans in 1994, the Civil war in 1995, and World War I, a centennial issue, in 1918.
Two of the four branches of the military have also been honored with their own coins. The first of those honored the 230th anniversary of the Marine Corps in 2005. It bore an image from one of the most iconic photos in history: four Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi. Six years later, the mint issued three coins honoring the U.S. Army. The coins commemorated the founding of the Army in 1775 and are perfect for collectors with an interest in military history. The three coins depict various aspects of the Army, including a storyboard showing three different jobs, a man and woman design showing the modern diversity of the Army, and a look at soldiers over time, which is on the $5 gold piece. The Infantry got a coin of its own in 2012. Created in 1775, the Infantry has suffered approximately three-quarters of the casualties throughout American history. The obverse features an action shot of a soldier running into harm’s way to accomplish his mission.
Perhaps more so than any other organization, the military relies heavily on its leaders. These leaders must make life and death decisions that affect not only the military members in their charge but also the future of their country. Even when struggling with these decisions, they must project an aura of confidence and calm. The first modern commemorative in 1982 honored President Washington, who rose to prominence as an important General in the Revolutionary War. The coin features an image of him on his horse and marked the 250th anniversary of his birth. Washington also featured on a later commemorative. In 1990, the mint once again honored a President and General with a stunning Silver Dollar that featured overlapping portraits of Dwight D. Eisenhower; one from his military career and one from his political career. Like Washington, Eisenhower returned to commemoratives, albeit not alone. He featured along with General George C. Marshall on a Silver Dollar in 2013, one of three coins that year honoring Generals. The other two coins featured Generals Arnold and Bradley ($.50) and General Douglas MacArthur ($5 Gold).
Throughout the run of modern commemoratives, several coins have been issued to honor specific groups of people who have served. Perhaps the most powerful among them is the 2011 Medal of Honor Silver Dollar. The coin honors the recipients of the military’s highest award for valor. The medal is on the obverse, while the reverse features a soldier carrying a wounded brother in arms. Two other distinguished groups, POWs and disabled veterans, had their own issues in 1994 and 2010, respectively. Additional issues that fit this category are Women Veterans (1994 Silver Dollar), Black Patriots (1998 Silver Dollar), and West Point (2002 Silver Dollar), while the 1991 USO Silver Dollar honored those who boost the morale of those serving in the military.
While the U.S. places more of an emphasis on military issues than other countries, it is not the only country to issue coins to honor those who put themselves in harm’s way for their countries. Last year, the Royal Mint issued a coin for Remembrance Day. Although it is a British coin, its powerful words, “SILENCE SPEAKS WHEN WORDS CAN NOT,” and its poppy design, which was inspired by the poem ‘On Flanders Fields,’ are sure to make anyone who has lost a loved one in war well up with emotions. Both the Perth Mint and the Royal Canadian Mint also have several military-themed issues, mostly focusing on battles in which their countries’ militaries were involved.
Whether you are serving or have served in the military, have a loved one who fits one of those categories, or simply wish to honor the sacrifices of those who have given everything for their countries, coins offer no shortage of ways to do so. These coins are small, but like the sacrifices of those whom they honor, they are enduring and can serve for decades, perhaps even centuries, as reminders of the honor and service of military members.
||Sean McConeghy is a freelance writer and network marketer living in Roatan, Honduras. He originally hails from New York and specializes in writing about numismatics, real estate, and politics.|