Have you ever heard of a “Challenge Coin?” It’s a term used by the military and service providers to describe special custom made coins that symbolize their unit identity and brotherhood. Each coin has meaning, usually bearing symbols or mottos that show affiliation to a specific group or unit.

IMG_7136To receive one is considered a great honor. And if you are given one it’s usually because the person who gave it to you feels you’ve done something to deserve it and wants to praise your work. I’ve been fortunate enough to receive three.

Imagine how humbled and honored I was when I received my latest just a few weeks ago.

IMG_7142This was given to me by Major General James H. Mukoyama, Jr. He’s a retired two star general with the US Army. General Mukoyama is now the president and CEO of an organization called Military Outreach USA. It’s a non profit that provides support to the military community.

I had the pleasure of meeting the general during a four hour meeting, where he and I and others who are passionate about supporting our vets met to discuss how we can help and our goals. You’ll be finding out more about this in the future. But much to my surprise, when he came up to shake my hand he gave me what is known as “the secret hand shake.” During that exchange he passed on this gift to me. His own personal challenge coin.

secret handshakeIf you’re not associated with the military you may not be familiar with what they are and how they work. The origin of the challenge coin is not definitively known. But it’s a long standing tradition that dates back as far as 100 years and apparently began to catch on during the Vietnam War. Challenge coins are now being used by many different organizations. Everyone from firefighters, to the Secret Service, even the President of the United States has his own Challenge coin. To get the presidential coin is the ultimate honor.


be712824a808aa225e0f6a706700ec1e presidentialchallengecoinThough, I’m not so sure. I felt overwhelmingly honored every time I  received one. That’s because the person who gave it to me proudly and unselfishly served our country.

So whenever you’re around military personnel ask them about the “secret handshake.” They’ll be more than happy to explain the significance. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be honored with being on the receiving end. Have you ever received a Challenge Coin? If so, share your story.

Sylvia Perez

About Sylvia Perez

Sylvia Perez is an Emmy Award winning broadcast journalist, news and health reporter, and major market anchor. Her expertise in revealing the personal side of headline stories and drawing their impact into “news you can use” viewership is now the foundation of Sylvia Perez Productions, a multi-faceted company specializing in video production and event planning for non-profits.


  • William Kresse says:

    I have received several of these coins over the last few years due to my work with training law enforcement and military organizations in fraud examination. Each time I am given one, it is an honor and a thrill. I now have a wooden display case in my home to show off my coins.
    May we both receive more in the future!

    • Sylvia Perez Sylvia Perez says:

      That’s great William. Congratulations!It really is such an honor isn’t it? Thanks for sharing. Sylvia

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