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Plot Device
11-24-2010, 08:38 AM
I need little stories about getting little pats on the back during military service. But they don't have to be outreageous tales of courage and valor. For instance, I had a really awesome friend in college who told me she was in the military before college and that she always made it a point to METICULOUSLY shine her shoes every day. And one afternoon she was sitting on the steps outside her barracks, shining her shoes with an old white sock, a can of Kiwi, and an ice cube floating on top of the Kiwi, and the CO walked by and noticed her. He asked her what she was doing. She explained about her daily shoe shining ritual with the Kiwi and the ice cube. He gave her a commendation for it saying he likes to see soldiers take pride in their appearance.


Now if you DO have a somewhat more heavy-weight story than that, I'm all ears! :) But I didn't want to scare away any of the less hefty stories either.

And also, please tell me the TYPE of commendation you got.



::ETA::

Willlibie asked a question: Is that individual commendations or group commendations?? I'll take both. :)



::ETA::

Here's what I REALLY need and why I need it.

My current WIP is narrated from First Person POV by my MC, who is a former Gulf War soldier (now in his 40's) who was part of a unit in Kuwait during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm back in 1990/1991. Via my MC's narration we learn that his unit had a CO that went to the extra trouble to have "challenge coins" minted for the team. During my MC's tour of duty with that unit, he earned 7 such challenge coins, and he still has all 7 coins to this day. I want to come up with 7 stories for him to recall for us asd he narrates, explaining the stories behind each coin. And the stories can range from anything to the ridiculously mundane to the most heroic feats of valor. But I need 7 stories.

Snowstorm
11-24-2010, 09:16 AM
Two Commendation medals for service in two different stations, and beaucoup letters of commendation (appreciation they're sometimes called in the Air Force). They were for a wide range of things: organizing Memorial Day services, running Red Cross fundraisers, helping out troops outside of my unit, being a key troop during an Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) in S Korea (that was a HUGE deal to me!), coordinating a DWI Victim's Panel with off-base agencies. There are more, but I can't think of any more.

I wrote a lot of them too. I always enjoyed that.

Williebee
11-24-2010, 09:25 AM
Are you interested in individual commendations or unit commendations, or both. Some commendations get awarded because you are part of a unit/ship/squadron that did something. Others are more individual effort recognition.

Linda Adams
11-24-2010, 04:46 PM
Not sure if this one counts, but here it is ...

While I was in Desert Storm, the army announced a writing contest for soldiers. I looked at the judges, saw they were civilians, and decided on my topic, which was about incident that had almost happened in my unit. It was a short story called "Loss of Innocence." Sent it off, and didn't hear anything about it. I was half-expecting them to reject the story because of the content.

Nine months later, we're all back home again. I find an official message in my office's box--it's an announcement of the winners of the contest. I won honorable mention for my short story. I also noticed that I was the only lower enlisted--private first class--who placed. Everyone else was either an officer or a non-commissioned officer.

I figure that's about it, given one of my medals was given to me in the same manner and don't think about it any more. Later that week, the commander orders a formation. I have at least three people check in with me to make sure I really am going to be there at that formation. We go out and form up, and the commander announces they're going to present an award. A colonel from public affairs comes up and announces that I won the creative writing contest. He tells everyone he read the story and praises it highly, and the first thing I'm thinking is that he hadn't read it. I get a plaque, a savings bond, and materials saying the stories will be published in an anthology. The first place winners got their awards from Ms. Bush. So I had my fifteen minutes of fame that day.

And I never heard anything about the story ever again. As far as I know, the anthology was not published, and no one but me and the judges ever saw the story.

Summonere
11-24-2010, 05:10 PM
And I never heard anything about the story ever again. As far as I know, the anthology was not published, and no one but me and the judges ever saw the story.

Sound like my writing career. :)

Plot Device
11-24-2010, 05:37 PM
Are you interested in individual commendations or unit commendations, or both. Some commendations get awarded because you are part of a unit/ship/squadron that did something. Others are more individual effort recognition.


Um .... I didn't know there was a difference. :D (Is that an African swallow or a European swallow?)


(I'll go change the OP. I need both. ;) )

Plot Device
11-24-2010, 05:44 PM
Keep 'em coming, guys. These are great. :)

Noah Body
11-24-2010, 06:09 PM
Was awarded the Silver Star along with several other gunnies in Somalia for actions on October 3-4. It was the very first engagement any of us had been in where ammunition went faster than fuel. It was also the first engagement I'm aware of where all the pilots wanted to land so our copilots could disembark and defend two downed Black Hawks. Pilots make notoriously poor ground combatants, but those on the deck were our blood. It was my copilot, who truly has balls of steel, who initially volunteered for the action. (We were denied permission, of course.)

Was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for actions on September 5, also in Somalia. Some Somali kids thought it would be great fun to fire mortars at the airfield, and the rounds landing near our revetments. We spun up, got airborne, and took care of them. After our return, one of the guys noticed I was bleeding. I'd taken some shrapnel which sounds more manly than it really was.

Also awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, blah blah blah. Medals can be issued for almost nothing, others for really doing something. For instance, I have two bronze stars, and one of them I feel I don't deserve. :)

Best award ever was getting my aviator badge, though. I made it all the way through rotary wing training and did not wreck one helicopter. For me, I think that's a personal best. :D

Plot Device
11-24-2010, 10:58 PM
Holy shyte, Noah! :Jaw:

My respect-o-meter just exploded! :e2salute:

Noah Body
11-24-2010, 11:09 PM
A lot of guys in the same unit got the same recognition, and several others got much more. I was just an average amigo, but I was definitely in the company of heroes.

Williebee
11-24-2010, 11:52 PM
Medals can be issued for almost nothing, others for really doing something

Same is true of letters of commendation. I got an LOC for helping to rehab a school in Grenada, for example. A bunch of us went out, scraped and painted, delivered school supplies from our local (stateside) Lions Club, then got our butts kicked playing baseball with the kids. Oh, and showed them the first (current style) pop top Coke cans they'd ever seen. It was a good day. I'd pay to do it again.

And I got the National Defense Service Medal just because I was still during the first part of the first Gulf War, not for actually doing anything.

Armed Forces Expeditionary (2), Meritorious Unit Commendation (3 -- I think) for services in the water off Lebanon and in the Persian Gulf, oh and for boarding ZZ Top's yacht in the Caribbean. We were doing drug enforcement operations there, with a Coast Guard unit on board. We searched a dozen small craft over a two week period, including the "Top Yacht". The band wasn't aboard, bummer. Last one was for hosting a Caribbean Nations conference aboard ship. (I have seen a couple of scary dictators up close. :) )

Plus Unit Commendations for Navy Recruiting Command success (We were district of the year one year.) And a personal one for being Public Affairs Officer of the Quarter -- Scored a million dollars in free advertising one year via syndicated television and billboard placement. The plaque and the LOC weren't that big a deal to me, but it helped get me my next job.

BRDurkin
11-25-2010, 03:05 AM
I was awarded two Naval Achievement Medals during my short-lived Navy stint. I'll be honest, they hand those things out like candy, although I'm proud to say I genuinely believed I earned mine.

The first was for going above and beyond my rank and responsibility as Magazine Captain for our 5" gun mount aboard my guided missile destroyer. I was responsible for organizing and maintaining accountability for over 600 shells during our deployment to South America. Not a problem if you don't do any shooting. But we were tasked with several training missions with South American navies, which meant we did a TON of shooting. I had to make sure that I knew exactly which sort of round was being sent down range when it went into the breach, whether it was HE-PD, VT-NONFRAG, ILLUM, BL&P, etc. I also had to know if we were using full charge powders or reduced charge. On top of that, when we were originally given our ammunition, the ammunition depot had labeled all the ammo incorrectly, so I had to go through that entire magazine, while at sea, and figure out what round was what. Plus our ammo management software was total crap. But, when we finally got home, I knew exactly how many of each type of round and powder we had left, and our offload was a breeze - relatively speaking.

My second NAM, which was actually awarded first, was for being a member of the boarding party which boarded and commandeered a Panamanian-flagged freighter on which we discovered 3 tons of cocaine. After taking the ship - which was halfway to Africa by the time we chased it down (we started in the Caribbean) - we had to stand guard aboard it for 8 days until we got it back to Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, myself and my Weapons Officer (the whitest white guys you will ever see) were eavesdropping on the crew, because we knew Spanish, and they didn't know we knew it. So they talked about everything right in front of us. I had to try hard not to grin like a fool the whole time. Every other member of the boarding team was awarded a NAM as well, I believe, and it was a ship-wide effort.

And that's about the sum of my war story book right there. :P

Kenra Daniels
11-25-2010, 09:17 AM
Hubby got Army Achievement Medals and Army Commendation Medals every time he had a permanent change of station. He had a ton of LOCs for his tank shooting Top Gun during Field Training Exercises, doing well in a school, volunteering for community service projects, and basically anything that was even slightly 'above and beyond'. Another ARCOM (Army Commendation Medal) was for passing a huge inspection while he was Battalion Ammo NCO. LOCs, AAMs, and ARCOMs were the 'atta boys' of choice in the units he was in, regularly awarded for doing an excellent job. He had several other medals, but I can't for the life of remember what they were at the moment.

triceretops
11-25-2010, 09:47 AM
Got a commendation for bravery from the government, plus a letter and a cash reward. But that was as a civilian when I worked at the Department of the Interior. Don't know if that counts.

Tri

Plot Device
11-25-2010, 05:27 PM
Got a commendation for bravery from the government, plus a letter and a cash reward. But that was as a civilian when I worked at the Department of the Interior. Don't know if that counts.

Tri


What were the details? I need stories! :)

Plot Device
11-25-2010, 05:31 PM
Same is true of letters of commendation. I got an LOC for helping to rehab a school in Grenada, for example. A bunch of us went out, scraped and painted, delivered school supplies from our local (stateside) Lions Club, then got our butts kicked playing baseball with the kids. Oh, and showed them the first (current style) pop top Coke cans they'd ever seen. It was a good day. I'd pay to do it again.

And I got the National Defense Service Medal just because I was still during the first part of the first Gulf War, not for actually doing anything.

Armed Forces Expeditionary (2), Meritorious Unit Commendation (3 -- I think) for services in the water off Lebanon and in the Persian Gulf, oh and for boarding ZZ Top's yacht in the Caribbean. We were doing drug enforcement operations there, with a Coast Guard unit on board. We searched a dozen small craft over a two week period, including the "Top Yacht". The band wasn't aboard, bummer. Last one was for hosting a Caribbean Nations conference aboard ship. (I have seen a couple of scary dictators up close. :) )

Plus Unit Commendations for Navy Recruiting Command success (We were district of the year one year.) And a personal one for being Public Affairs Officer of the Quarter -- Scored a million dollars in free advertising one year via syndicated television and billboard placement. The plaque and the LOC weren't that big a deal to me, but it helped get me my next job.

I'm kinda glad the band wasn't on board -- I'd hate to be the one to have to bust them!

Very cool stuff all around! :cool:

Plot Device
11-25-2010, 05:33 PM
I was awarded two Naval Achievement Medals during my short-lived Navy stint. I'll be honest, they hand those things out like candy, although I'm proud to say I genuinely believed I earned mine.

The first was for going above and beyond my rank and responsibility as Magazine Captain for our 5" gun mount aboard my guided missile destroyer. I was responsible for organizing and maintaining accountability for over 600 shells during our deployment to South America. Not a problem if you don't do any shooting. But we were tasked with several training missions with South American navies, which meant we did a TON of shooting. I had to make sure that I knew exactly which sort of round was being sent down range when it went into the breach, whether it was HE-PD, VT-NONFRAG, ILLUM, BL&P, etc. I also had to know if we were using full charge powders or reduced charge. On top of that, when we were originally given our ammunition, the ammunition depot had labeled all the ammo incorrectly, so I had to go through that entire magazine, while at sea, and figure out what round was what. Plus our ammo management software was total crap. But, when we finally got home, I knew exactly how many of each type of round and powder we had left, and our offload was a breeze - relatively speaking.

My second NAM, which was actually awarded first, was for being a member of the boarding party which boarded and commandeered a Panamanian-flagged freighter on which we discovered 3 tons of cocaine. After taking the ship - which was halfway to Africa by the time we chased it down (we started in the Caribbean) - we had to stand guard aboard it for 8 days until we got it back to Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, myself and my Weapons Officer (the whitest white guys you will ever see) were eavesdropping on the crew, because we knew Spanish, and they didn't know we knew it. So they talked about everything right in front of us. I had to try hard not to grin like a fool the whole time. Every other member of the boarding team was awarded a NAM as well, I believe, and it was a ship-wide effort.

And that's about the sum of my war story book right there. :P


This is all helpful! You guys are all just SOOO totally barking up the right tree with this stuff! :)

Plot Device
11-25-2010, 05:36 PM
Hubby got Army Achievement Medals and Army Commendation Medals every time he had a permanent change of station. He had a ton of LOCs for his tank shooting Top Gun during Field Training Exercises, doing well in a school, volunteering for community service projects, and basically anything that was even slightly 'above and beyond'. Another ARCOM (Army Commendation Medal) was for passing a huge inspection while he was Battalion Ammo NCO. LOCs, AAMs, and ARCOMs were the 'atta boys' of choice in the units he was in, regularly awarded for doing an excellent job. He had several other medals, but I can't for the life of remember what they were at the moment.

Once again, cool stuff. The wider the variety of commendations-earning tasks, the better, guys. ANYTHING goes as far as what I need.

I'm going to go back up to the top and edit the OP to explain in greater detail what I need.

Linda Adams
11-25-2010, 06:37 PM
My current WIP is narrated from First Person POV by my MC, who is a former Gulf War soldier (now in his 40's) who was part of a unit in Kuwait during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm back in 1990/1991. Via my MC's narration we learn that his unit had a CO that went to the extra trouble to have "challenge coins" minted for the team. During my MC's tour of duty with that unit, he earned 7 such challenge coins, and he still has all 7 coins to this day. I want to come up with 7 stories for him to recall for us asd he narrates, explaining the stories behind each coin. And the stories can range from anything to the ridiculously mundane to the most heroic feats of valor. But I need 7 stories.

Ah--being from Desert Storm, I can tell you Challenge Coins weren't always used liked this. They actually had a different purpose and changed right about that time frame. Originally, when a new soldier arrived in a unit, his squad leader bought a coin for him and gave it to him, with initials engraved on the back. He was required to carry the coin with him because another soldier could "coin him." If he didn't have the coin, he owed pushups or a six pack of beer. One time, before Desert Storm, I noticed that the supply sergeant had his coin in his desk drawer. Went back and told my squad leader, since they had a friendly rivalry, and he coined the supply sergeant.

During Desert Storm, that changed. The coins went from being "You're part of us," to rewards. Several soldiers in our batallion were presented with batallion coins for performing a transportation mission. It wasn't anything special. It was, in fact, something all of us had done before, so giving the coins for it looked particularly odd. It felt like they wanted to reward people but didn't want to give medals (medals go on your official record and can be used for promotion; coins sit on your desk or in a case for people to admire). Since then, I got coins for setting up conferences (have about 3-4 of the same one for that) and helping someone out with their briefings.

So possibly, as another alternative, he could be remembering the espirit de corps of each of the people, rather than a specific reason for someone to give them the coins. It would fit in with the time, since it was transitional.

Kate Thornton
11-25-2010, 10:01 PM
Got a lot of fruit salad, but the one that I'm proud of was for doing something no one else wanted to do.

I was in Intel, so I can't tell you all of it, but basically a man went to an area no one else could go to and saw lots of interesting stuff. Problem, though - he contracted a fatal disease and was hospitalized. He needed to be debriefed, but no one wanted to do it. I did it. I sat with him everyday from the first day to his last, and held his hand at the end. I took lots of notes. I wrote 23 reports that went forward (to the Big Place) and saved a lot of folks from some pretty awful stuff. I had to get a lot of shots, but I didn't get too sick.

I got the medal (Meritorious Service Medal) for intelligence and security support, but he was the hero.



.

Kate Thornton
11-25-2010, 10:08 PM
Challege coins - I got a drawer full - always carry one, because if you are challenged in a bar & can't show your coin, you have to buy.

My favorites are from the 6th ITAAS and a Sergeant Major's coin. The 6thITAAS coin was only given to original unit members of the 6th Army Intelligence Theater Army Area School - we were all Intel instructors.

I got a Sergeant Major's coin from a group of British SMs (I was a Warrant Officer, but the closest thing the Brits had to my rank was Regimental Sergeant Major, and there were no women RSMs) after I beat the pants off them in a poker game at Ft. Ord.

And I got one as a civilian when I worked on a fancy project for the Missile Defense Command. It's very pretty, but kind of a joke as all the folks read into that particular disaster got one.


.

Noah Body
11-26-2010, 06:08 PM
Heh, challenge coins... of course if you coined someone and he didn't have his, beers were on him...

A bunch of guys coined an officer in the SHOWERS once, and they got beat. Officer picks up his soap, turns it over, and embedded in it was the regimental challenge coin! Gotta love it when someone shows up to the party fully prepared.

Plot Device
11-27-2010, 08:54 AM
Heh, challenge coins... of course if you coined someone and he didn't have his, beers were on him...

A bunch of guys coined an officer in the SHOWERS once, and they got beat. Officer picks up his soap, turns it over, and embedded in it was the regimental challenge coin! Gotta love it when someone shows up to the party fully prepared.

Gives new meaning to "soap on a rope!" :D

Hallen
11-28-2010, 12:15 AM
I don't have much to add to the others. I have a smattering of the usual. Achievement medals, ARCOM's, etc. Most were awarded for simply doing my job the way I was supposed to do it.

The Army does have a concept of an instant award or commendation. Slang was "attaboys" but I forget the name they really use for them. One of the big things they did while I was in was to give out unit coins or mission coins. Normally, any major unit commander would have access to these trinkets and give them out when he saw something he liked. I've gotten coins from Brigadier Generals and even some special ops guys when we bent over backwards to assist them in their training (can you say stabo? The original definition of dope on a rope). Chances are, this is the type of award given to the gal who was shining her boots. It's a good motivational tool -- catch somebody doing something right and reward them.

These coins often became the currency of the challenge coins that Noah talks about.

tiny
12-04-2010, 12:51 AM
I came across this thread just poking around. My hubs has a Crown Royal bag of challenge coins... I went through them one time asking him what they were for. He remembers every single one. Not all had a smile, but they all had a memory. I found it fascinating.

Orion11Bravo
12-13-2010, 05:43 AM
The Army does have a concept of an instant award or commendation. Slang was "attaboys" but I forget the name they really use for them. One of the big things they did while I was in was to give out unit coins or mission coins.

That's really what "challenge coins" are, in my experience. If an officer or sergeant major asks you to recite the army values, or quizzes you on respond to a casualty, or something, then that guy might give you a coin. I have four or five, but only one that I'm proud of. When I first joined I was in a scout platoon and was made the RTO (radio guy) for a JRTC rotation (which is a war-games thing in LA). Basically, I didn't do anything more than my job, but I carried all of the extra batteries, slept less than everybody else, called for fire on a bunch of armor...now that I'm writing this, it was basically just my job, but well enough to impress my team leader, so I got a coin out of it.

I got an ARCOM for a firefight in Samarra in 2004. An RPG hit our bunker and the other two guys with me were mildly injured. I returned fire and blew up a taxicab. I also killed a guy in an Iraqi Police uniform (or the machine gunner did, it was hard to tell), which means that I either killed a good guy or a bad guy dressed like a good guy, which they did all of the time. Either way, he was in the direction of the RPG, and there was a lot of dirt that was kicked up because it hit a pile of sandbags...I'm not fully convinced that I deserved any kind of accolade, and that's not me being modest...

Our medic was rewarded with the same ARCOM his first week in country...he was only 18 years old and the only medic at the Traffic Control Point when a car bomb took out most of our Iraqi Police and wounded several of our troops. His platoon sergeant looked alright, and the medic was about to move on, when he realized the Staff Sergeant's underarmor underwear was holding in all of the tissue and fat from a serious wound in the buttocks. I guess that would be funny except the guy had to walk with a cane for a year afterwards. He treated a bunch of other soldiers, including a specialist who had his shin bone severed by a piece of shrapnel...the specialist kept the leg, but ODed on heroine a few years later.

Our platoon sergeant (different from the guy above) welded metal sheets on to 5 ton trucks (we were National Guard and he was a welder in "real life"), which we used as troop transports and were otherwise unarmored. He earned a bronze star when his initiative and expertise saved some lives in an ambush on Easter, 2004.

A buddy of mine had a little bit of a breakdown (pointed a loaded shotgun and a teammate who was making fun of him) and had to stay at the FOB while we did missions. He was doing #2 in the porta-johns and a morter round dropped nearby, slicing through and wounding him in the ass and legs. He went home as a quasi-hero with a purple heart (they really should give contexts with purple hearts...taking a shit and storming the beaches of Normandy shouldn't be rewarded equally).

Sorry...I overwrote my welcome. I wasn't in for very long, and just the National Guard, but I love sharing stories...

Noah Body
12-13-2010, 05:55 AM
Hooah, troop!

Plot Device
12-15-2010, 12:53 AM
These are great stories!

You guys are just blowing me away!

Plot Device
12-16-2010, 06:48 AM
Okay, guys, if you're still around ...........

Here are THREE passages from my WIP dealing with the challenge coins. Tell me if this is Kosher. And NOAH BODY -- I was so jazzed by your story about the officer in the shower that I included it in my current narrative. :D

---------------

FIRST PASAGE -- My MC is a 40-something resident of Philadelphia, 8 years in the future. He's also a Desert Storm veteran. He gets a phone call from an unidentified woman who wants to hire him to do a repair job. She won't give him her name, nor even tell him who recommended him to her. But she's going to pay him cash under the table and a back end bonus. He agrees to meet her for breakfast at a nearby diner in the City. He is walking the ten blocks on his way to the diner when he runs into someone.

As I hashed everything out in my head, I was right in the middle of passing by the pawn shop where I’d hocked my electronics. The pawn shop owner spotted me, waved, and ran outside to greet me. I bristled at the sight of him.

“Hey, Pete!” he called. “You ready to sell me those coins?”

I stopped on the sidewalk and laughed as I turned to him with a forced smile.

“Sorry, Mr. Frazetti,” I shook my head, “not for two-thousand. Like I said: only 300 of those coins were ever struck. They’re valuable.”

“Oh, come on, Pete!” he chided. “Those kinda’ coins, they’re not worth one penny more‘n their weight in gold. Only way to get the value out of ‘em is to melt ‘em down.”

He was referring to my prize collection of seven “challenge coins,” the final holdout of what I still refused to sell in my desperate quest for cash. I shrugged and gave him my reply with the same crude and sloppy grammar I’d employed my entire life in Philadelphia and in the Army: “If I can’t get a decent price I wanna’ give ‘em to my son one day.”

“I offered a decent price! But you think sentimental value translates to real value. But that’s not how it works with coins, ‘specially when you’re talkin’ ‘bout ones that weren’t real currency. Don’t matter if it was just 300. Only way the value of the sentiment can exceed the value of the gold is if somebody famous was in your Army unit with you, like maybe somebody who became a rock star or something. Did you have any congressmen or movie stars or Nobel Laureates in your squad with you in the Gulf War?”

Challenge coins were a long standing tradition in the United States armed forces. They were always custom designed to include not only the unit’s name but even its personality. So my team, called the Desert Rat Squad, had a great big grinning rat emblazoned on ours. The CO’s task of handing them out to team members was the military equivalent of gold stars from the teacher. They were not an officially endorsed aspect of American military procedure, but were unofficially encouraged as an excellent morale booster and an aid to team bonding. Beyond that they were ultimately a very expensive novelty --so expensive only individuals with lots of disposable cash could make them possible. They were typically commissioned on a private basis with a stateside mint by more affluent members of a given squad. One minting of a limited series of just a few hundred coins could easily cost a man thousands of US dollars –- or many tens of thousands if their composition included real gold. Challenge coins didn’t have to be made with gold, but they did need to have a little class. Most challenge coins from other units were merely made of silver, and often only plated with silver. But Captain Warren, a man who always had a mild whiff of money about him, forked over the extra to have ours made of 10 karat white gold. He was an awesome CO. And my teammates and I once speculated among ourselves in full seriousness whether he might become president one day. My attachment to those coins came from my admiration for him and my appreciation for the supreme example he set for me in his skill at effective yet human leadership. And being able to one day tell Jason the seven stories behind each coin was important to me on many levels.

“Nah,” I smiled, shaking my head. “No congressmen. No movie stars. Just a buncha’ Army goons and one very cool commanding officer.”

“Then my offer stands,” He said. “Two-thousand bucks. You better take it now while the price of gold is still high.”

“I’ll let ya’ know,” I laughed, then continued walking.

---------------

SECOND PASSAGE -- My MC is gassing up at a gas station on his way to the job that the lady hired him for. He accidentally drops his coin.

As I stood beside my van squeezing the gas pump nozzle into the van’s fuel port, I watched the electric numbers on the pump meter flickering ever upward in value. Two years earlier if you’d told me my van would eat nearly four-hundred dollars per fill-up I would have laughed. But now the only thing laughable about that day’s gas pump experience was that my debit card didn’t get declined. I checked the time: three-forty. If I wanted to beat Friday evening’s rush hour out of Philly I had to go right then.

“Meet me at six-thirty tonight,” Mystery Lady had said. Normally I never did evening jobs except for emergency repairs. While I remained in the dark as to the true nature of her contract, for fifty grand I wasn’t going to be picky.

After finishing at the fuel pump I fumbled with my wallet to quickly stash away the debit card and the gas receipt. But in my haste I let one fold of my wallet flop sideways, causing a large silver-looking coin to slide out and bounce on the concrete at my feet. I gasped and instinctively lunged down to try and grab it back. Tilted to one side it rolled in a circular whirl until it hit the high curbing of the gas pump island. I snatched it before it could plop on its face, and in mild terror I held my breath while examining its current condition. The coin’s engraved image of the grinning rat in sunglasses and flak jacket was in no way scratched. I double checked both sides for damage, then let out a long sigh of relief. It was perfectly fine. Thank God.

The reason for the very name “challenge coin” was that, when challenged, you had to instantly produce the coin to your challenger and show him that had it on you. Failure to have it on your person meant you had to buy the challenger a drink. But successfully producing the coin meant he had to buy one for you. I recalled how back in Kuwait a couple of guys in my unit called me over to the officers’ shower tent one day because they decided we should all be a bunch of wise asses and try to challenge Captain Warren while he was in the shower. (I asked them why the hell they needed me to join in with risking a reprimand for entering the officers’ shower, and they said it was because Captain Warren liked me and would probably be more lenient if I was in on it.) We cornered the poor man as he stood there under the running water, buck naked with nothing but his dog tags on his neck and a bar of soap in his hands. His towel and bathrobe were off to the side where it might have been possible that a coin lay stashed in the pocket of his robe. But “off to the side” wasn’t good enough because the coin always has to be physically on your person. So we figured that unless he had one shoved up his ass we most likely would be getting free drinks that evening. Still standing under the running water, he turned and grinned at us, slowly held up his bar of soap, and there we beheld his challenge coin lodged inside the bar itself. We gladly bought him a round that evening, and he gladly ushered us into the officer’s club for us to buy it for him.

But beyond merely having it on you, your method of carrying could not in itself cause damage to the coin. Even keeping it in a coin purse, rattling around with regular coins, posed the danger of scratching it. So if you successfully produced the coin but it proved to be in any way defaced, you had committed an unpardonable sin. At that point it would be far better to lie and tell your challenger you didn’t have it on you. I’d heard about how one guy from a neighboring unit back in Kuwait was stupid enough to drill a hole through his challenge coin to wear it around his neck on a chain alongside his dog tags. When the rest the guys in his unit found out what he did, four of them became so incensed that they waited in secret for him one night and beat the shit out of him. Then as he lay moaning on the ground they took the desecrated coin from him and melted it down.

Although I hadn’t been in the service in over 25 years, and hadn’t even been challenged in seven years, the habit of keeping it on me never died. In my leather wallet, enfolded behind the soft protection of both flaps of a credit card slot, its safety never struck me as a problem. But the wallet had grown worn with time and suffered a few rips, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when such an accidental dislodging of the coin finally happened. Yet still, that one careless moment at the gas station had me shaking.

After securing the coin within a different credit card slot, I put my wallet away, took a breath and climbed back in the van. I then pulled out the paper napkin Mystery Lady had scribbled on in her beautiful penmanship. It read 385 Lincoln Highway, Interlochen, PA. I set the GPS and started driving.

-------------------

THIRD PASSAGE -- My MC does the repair job, and then the woman who hired him suffers a terrible inury. She's unconscious and needs medical help. He doesn't have his phone on him so he goes through her purse looking for her phone and an elevator key.

I went back to her purse and started searching it. I unzipped and emptied every last internal compartment. I found makeup, a wallet, a paper address book, tampons, pens, and a set of keys with a round flat leather key fob shaped like a thick disk. I searched the many keys, looking for a possible duplicate to the elevator key, but all I found were a few house keys, a Mercedes car key, and other smaller keys, none of which bore the distinctive shape of her round-barreled elevator key. I was about to put the keys back into the purse again when I changed my mind and decided to keep them in case they came in handy with any doors I might encounter. I held them up to give them one last look before pocketing them, but then I froze.

The thick round flat leather key fob caught my attention.

The fob had an easily peeled-back flap which covered over an inner-pocket where a round and shiny treasure lay tucked inside. That inner pocket was designed as a semi-circle of leather half-way covering a large silver-looking coin that was perfectly fitted to the dimensions of the leather fob -- or perhaps it was the leather fob that was perfectly fitted to dimensions of the coin. Even though I could only see half the coin while it sat in the pocket, I still recognized it.

I slipped the coin from its pocket and held it up … yes … it was exactly what I knew it to be. It read “Operation Desert Shield -- Kuwait -- 1990 -- The Desert Rat Squad.” I flipped it over and beheld the cartoon image of a grinning rat wearing flight shades, a flak jacket, an army helmet, and sporting a machine gun over his shoulder.

After being sufficiently stunned by this, I went back into her purse and found her wallet. I bypassed the cash and the platinum cards and went straight for her Pennsylvania drivers license: she was 39 years old and her name was Catherine Warren.

“Oh my God,” I muttered.

I started flipping through her photos and found a wallet-sized portrait of an older version of the man whom twenty years earlier I had called Captain Warren, only in this photo he was much grayer and wore the uniform of a colonel. I continued to flip through the photos and found a snapshot of Mystery Lady standing on a tropical beach with Captain Warren/Colonel Warren. They wore bathing suits, and as they smiled for the camera they leaned romantically against one another. Although her hair in the photo was longer, her image here as compared to her present appearance told me the photo was as recent as five years, maybe less. She also looked quite good in a one-piece bathing suit and I lamented she hadn’t opted for a two-piece. I noticed he looked pretty good himself with no shirt on, although certainly older than when I knew him.

You came highly recommended, she had said to me earlier.

A flood of questions overpowered my mind, and the one that pushed its way to the forefront was:

“Is he really dead now?” and I asked it right out loud.

Orion11Bravo
12-16-2010, 07:26 AM
The only thing that jumps out at me as being odd is the part when the three guys beat the shit out of the guy who drilled a hole through the coin. That seems to me more of a "smoking" (pushups, etc), manual labor (painting rocks, digging deep holes with little shovels), TOC duty (ie answering phones for 12 hours, typically overnight), general emotional abuse, etc., type of offense...just my impression. Maybe some unit somewhere takes challenge coins beat-you-with-a-soap-in-the-towel-serious, but not the guys I was with.

But then again, from a literary standpoint, it also sets the mood for how much stock your character takes in the coin...

Plot Device
12-16-2010, 07:46 PM
Thanks, Orion. :)

I can try and tone down the rumored punishment that the other guy got for drilling a hole in his coin.

Meanwhile, did I get the "officers' shower" and the "officers' club" right? Would they normally get in trouble for entering the officers' shower? And would a Captain be allowed to drag three enlisted men into the officers' club just for a few drinks?

Orion11Bravo
12-16-2010, 10:35 PM
I was National Guard, so the only "Active duty" that I really did was the 6 month pre-deployment training at Fort Drum, so they stuck us in old WW1 barracks...bottom line is we didn't really have "officer" showers, we were in seperate barracks, and enlisted men would never go to the officer's quarters. That said, it totally depends on your officer/the unit/who else was there when it happened. An LT I was "cool with" reprimanded me for making some wise-ass comment in the presence of an NCO from another unit (I cringe at the thought of being 19 again)...had it just been him, I think it would have been alright. So I would go with "believable".

Sorry...I don't have any experience in officer/enlisted man's clubs. Any drinking we did we did off base or (unauthorized) in the barracks.

But I read it a little closer...is this all happening in Kuwait? Maybe someone from Desert Storm can confirm this, but in 2004 there was no authorized alcohol in Kuwait...or Iraq. There are NA beers (O'Dooles or something), and on larger bases maybe something like an officer's lounge, but not where I was. On MWR in Qatar we got beer tickets on base...limit 2 or 3 a night.

Noah Body
12-16-2010, 11:00 PM
No alcohol in ODS, not even with the French troops. And we checked to make sure they weren't holding out on us!

There was one incident in Saudi where some beer suddenly materialized on a cargo plane flight, but it was taken out of circulation pretty quickly, I heard.

Plot Device
12-17-2010, 06:14 PM
No alcohol, eh?

Okay. I have to fix that too then.

(And Noah, I went and fixed my reference to your awesome shower story -- no idea why I thought it was Linda. My apologies.)

Noah Body
12-17-2010, 09:36 PM
LOL, no problemo!