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Two sides of the coin: appreciating veterans and first responders

Founder of Honoring Americans and the creator of first responder and armed forces “challenge coins,” Jon Radloff, at his home in Castle Pines.

When members of the armed forces walk through the airport in uniform, many Americans feel compelled to walk up to them and thank them for their service with a handshake. It’s a common show of gratitude, especially around major holidays or when troops are deployed overseas. Resident Jon Radloff wanted to go further.

“I wished that there was some more tangible way to say thank you,” Radloff said. Just before Veterans Day last year, Radloff had the
idea to make custom “challenge coins” to give to veterans and first responders he encountered as a mark of appreciation. He partnered with Pete Solano, a Marine Corps veteran, to mint a new challenge coin. The two made Solano’s annual charity poker tournament benefiting veterans the launching point. Everyone who registered for the tournament received a coin from their new organization, Honoring Americans.

Radloff designed two new coins: one for the armed forces and one for first responders – police, firefighters, medics, and search and rescue.

What makes Radloff’s effort unique is that each coin has a serial number to track its owner and to keep track if the coin changes hands. Recipients that are “coined” with one of Radloff’s creations may register their coin at and provide a name, photo, and information about their service attached to their coin number.

Challenge coins have a long and sometimes vague history. In modern times, the concept of the “challenge” is to present the coin as proof of membership in an organization. If one’s membership is challenged, the coin is proof of belonging. Colleges, nonprofits, and sports teams are among the regular producers of special coins for their supporters. Coins are also passed out by senior

government officials to military and civilians for recognition of a mission well done.

Coins in the military date back to at least ancient Rome. In recognition of special achievements on the battlefield, soldiersmight be presented with a specially minted coin along with their wages as a sign of recognition. Roman soldiers often kept their hard-earned coin instead of spending it.

In the first year, Radloff estimates that more than 350 coins have been distributed, mostly to the armed forces. “It’s harder to coin a first responder,” Radloff said. “You don’t want to interrupt them while on duty and they often don’t have things like hats or bumper stickers that identify them in public like veterans do.”

When “coining” someone, Radloff conveyed that although most recipients are humble and reluctant to accept the recognition, they express gratitude and appreciation for the gesture and the coin.

For those wishing to support Honoring Americans and its efforts to spread appreciation for veterans and first responders, Radloff hopes purchasing coins on the website and encouraging recipients to register their coin will continue to

build momentum. All proceeds from coin purchases are bundled and distributed to veteran-focused nonprofits.

“It’s not a money maker,” Radloff said. “It’s a way to support those who serve or have served.”

Article and photos by Bear Rothe



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