And One Came Back

Hugh MacKenzie
The envelope was in my in-box in among advertisements, catalogs, notices; typical day, typical mail call. I opened it and out of a folded letter dropped a coin. One of my coins. An inexpensive aluminum coin about the size of an old fashioned silver dollar.
The Army has given "challenge coins" away for years. They're called "atta-boys" nowadays. Senior Non-Commissioned Officers, Commissioned Officers with some rank, and Senior Civilian Service Personnel, give them away to mark, informally, some special occasion including promotions, retirements, receptions, farewells, or in  recognition of solid service. Certainly not a medal or letter of commendation, as such, but a simple token of esteem; a physical, "well done".
Mine were different. I gave them away to most everyone I met. A token of God's presence or His Word to...a General weighed down by awesome responsibility...a recruit struggling through Basic Training...an Army wife soldiering on with her family while her husband is off in harm's way...a wounded warrior asking the big questions for the first time in his young life...a civilian worker facing a difficult career move...a surgeon who has seen too much suffering....

For over ten years I gave away, perhaps hundreds of these coins, stamped with different Scriptures covering many themes and situations. My favorite rolled onto my blotter and stopped "heads up." It was a Liberty Bell with Leviticus 25:10 in raised letters around the Bell, words actually inscribed on one of our nation's most important icons. The "tails" side had a verse from Palm 11 verse 3; "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?"
I consider every soldier to be a dedicated Patriot, everyone one associated with the Armed Forces, likewise, to be a person of distinction. They are doing freedom's work for the Nation. They shore up the foundations. They proclaim by their very vocation and dress that they stand for the values that make this Nation unique and good. Liberty and its protection are their bread and butter. Vital is their mission and profound is their operational impact, each and everyone. A simple coin seems to be so inadequate a recognition for their sacrifice. But each does what is within his/her ability.

One of my coins had come full circle. The only one ever to be returned.

The short letter read: "Chaplain Mack. Found this in Jay's kit, returned to me after he died in Iraq. He mentioned once to me that he carried it in his pocket as reminder as to what he was out there for..."

The sentence trailed off. The letter wasn't even signed. Grief robs one of much energy. I understood.

The coin was scratched and dented...not as shiny as it once was right out of the box. To be honest, I barely remembered the Troop in question. But that didn't matter either. For if the coin had in any least way comforted or inspired this man to keep on keeping on...well, it had served its purpose.

And recently I gave it away a second time hoping that it would inspire another brave heart to do his duty for God and country. I do pray, however, it is not returned to me a second time.
Col. Hugh A Mackenzie is a retired chaplain in the Army Reserve.
The envelope was in my in-box in among advertisements, catalogs, notices; typical day, typical mail call. I opened it and out of a folded letter dropped a coin. One of my coins. An inexpensive aluminum coin about the size of an old fashioned silver dollar.
The Army has given "challenge coins" away for years. They're called "atta-boys" nowadays. Senior Non-Commissioned Officers, Commissioned Officers with some rank, and Senior Civilian Service Personnel, give them away to mark, informally, some special occasion including promotions, retirements, receptions, farewells, or in  recognition of solid service. Certainly not a medal or letter of commendation, as such, but a simple token of esteem; a physical, "well done".
Mine were different. I gave them away to most everyone I met. A token of God's presence or His Word to...a General weighed down by awesome responsibility...a recruit struggling through Basic Training...an Army wife soldiering on with her family while her husband is off in harm's way...a wounded warrior asking the big questions for the first time in his young life...a civilian worker facing a difficult career move...a surgeon who has seen too much suffering....

For over ten years I gave away, perhaps hundreds of these coins, stamped with different Scriptures covering many themes and situations. My favorite rolled onto my blotter and stopped "heads up." It was a Liberty Bell with Leviticus 25:10 in raised letters around the Bell, words actually inscribed on one of our nation's most important icons. The "tails" side had a verse from Palm 11 verse 3; "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?"
I consider every soldier to be a dedicated Patriot, everyone one associated with the Armed Forces, likewise, to be a person of distinction. They are doing freedom's work for the Nation. They shore up the foundations. They proclaim by their very vocation and dress that they stand for the values that make this Nation unique and good. Liberty and its protection are their bread and butter. Vital is their mission and profound is their operational impact, each and everyone. A simple coin seems to be so inadequate a recognition for their sacrifice. But each does what is within his/her ability.

One of my coins had come full circle. The only one ever to be returned.

The short letter read: "Chaplain Mack. Found this in Jay's kit, returned to me after he died in Iraq. He mentioned once to me that he carried it in his pocket as reminder as to what he was out there for..."

The sentence trailed off. The letter wasn't even signed. Grief robs one of much energy. I understood.

The coin was scratched and dented...not as shiny as it once was right out of the box. To be honest, I barely remembered the Troop in question. But that didn't matter either. For if the coin had in any least way comforted or inspired this man to keep on keeping on...well, it had served its purpose.

And recently I gave it away a second time hoping that it would inspire another brave heart to do his duty for God and country. I do pray, however, it is not returned to me a second time.
Col. Hugh A Mackenzie is a retired chaplain in the Army Reserve.