I attended an event yesterday, Revive 1787, and met a fellow veteran, Navy SEAL Jimmy Graham of Duty To Act, who gave me a challenge coin. A challenge coin is used by service members and dates back to WWI and other wars going forward and has recently been more prolific.
It is tradition that service members carry their medallion or coin at all times and when a “challenge” is issued, like USAF veteran Flem did to Navy SEAL Chris Kyle on the TV show Sons of Gun, the challenger must respond: the challenger would either ask to see the medallion or “slam down” the coin on the bar to make a loud sound. If the challenged could not produce a medallion, they were required to buy a drink of choice for the member who challenged them. If the challenged member produced a medallion, then the challenging member pays for the drink. (Read about how watching Chris Kyle on the Sons of Guns show affected my life and my new mission helping veterans.)
But in my case, this coin has much more meaning.
When I got the challenge coin, my first thought was, “%$#&, I got a challenge coin from a Navy SEAL and I don’t have my only challenge coin on me!” I thanked him and put it in my pocket and went about talking with him some more and then went to sit back down at our table. When I had a free moment, I took it out of my pocket and examined it and only then did I realize what I had in my hand: A challenge coin of Navy SEAL Lance Vaccaro and the Memorial Ride commemorating his life after his tragic death during a training exercise in 2008. Whenever you realize you’re talking or thinking about or discussing a fallen hero, it can take a few moments to summon up what it means, to yourself, their family and friends, and I thought of two things after seeing this coin, both scenes from “Saving Private Ryan.”
“Earn this” and “Have I led a good life?”
While the words say what actions are, the actions have more meaning than the words.
The military service member is someone who, at one point in his life, writes a blank check made payable to The United States of America for an amount of “up to and including my life.” To others in life such as police, firefighters, and other careers that put their life on the line, the blank check is just as special of an act by them.
So getting the Lance Vaccaro’s challenge coin meant a lot to me, especially after reading about his life. I don’t think I ever could have become a Navy SEAL, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do an “F-15 full afterburner” with what talents and skills I have. To lead a good life by maxing out my efforts, to live with intensity with what I have, not what I do not have. And even you can do the same. Lance Vaccaro paid the ultimate sacrifice with his life, taking months, even years, to learn his trade and to apply it when called upon. I will work to do nothing less than what he did. To live with the intensity that he did, but in only the manner in which only I can do, at my own speed and capability.
So I’ll be carrying this challenge coin with me everywhere I go from now on, not only to remember a fallen hero, to share with others about a fallen hero, but also as a reminder to me to push myself, to max out my time left here on earth so I fulfill what Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
So, who’s with me?
P.S. Interesting fact, Vaccaro grew up about 70 miles from where my grandparents lived and my father grew up, at 120 W Roland Rd, Chester, PA.