For Novembers Coin of the Month column, I am using four coins to illustrate my heartfelt thanks to all the veterans of the United States Armed Forces.
Those coins, all certified by NGC, are a 2005-P MS-70 United States Marine Corps silver dollar, a 2010-W PFUC-69 Disabled Veterans silver dollar, a 2011-P PFUC-69 Medal of Honor silver dollar, and a 2011-W PFUC-69 Medal of Honor five-dollar gold piece. Each of the dollar coins conforms to the dimensions, weight, and composition of a standard US silver dollar, and likewise, the five-dollar coin matches that of a standard US half-eagle.
Initially called Armistice Day, Veterans Day coincides with the end of hostilities in World War I on November 11, 1918. By Presidential Proclamation, the first observance of Armistice Day occurred on November 11, 1919. Subsequently, in 1938 by an act of Congress, Armistice Day became an annual observance celebrated on November 11. Later through the efforts of World War II veteran Raymond Weeks, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954. Henceforth, since Armistice Day was originally intended to honor those who died on the battlefield in World War I, Veterans Day today celebrates the service of all veterans.
The first of my tribute coins to our veterans is the 2005 Marine Corps commemorative dollar. The central device of this coins reverse is the United States Marine Corps insignia. Directly beneath the insignia is the Marine Corps motto Semper Fidelis which is Latin for Always Faithful. On the obverse of this coin is a representation of the February 23, 1945 raising of the flag on Iwo Jima atop Mount Suribachi. This moment, captured forever in time by a photograph is arguably one of the United States Marine Corps proudest moments. Against an enemy ordered to fight to the death, the invasion of Iwo Jima was one of the fiercest fought battles of World War II. Casualties were high on both sides, and of the six men who raised the flag, three of them fell in battle before the final fall of Iwo Jima on March 26, 1945. This battle exemplifies the highest ideals of the United States Marine Corps, ideals that continue in the Marine Corps today. The Marines have always been faithful to us in defending our freedoms; let us always be faithful in supporting them, Semper Fidelis.
My next tribute coin is the 2010 Disabled Veterans commemorative dollar. On the obverse of this coin are the legs and boots of three veterans, one of whom has an amputated leg. Around the upper rim of the coin is a banner with the inscription, They Stood Up For Us. The reverse features an oak wreath wrapped by a ribbon with a forget-me-not flower at the base of the wreath. The oak wreath is a symbol of strength, and the forget-me-not, which dates back to World War I, represents those who were disabled during combat. Currently, 1.6 million service men and women have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars at some point. Of those, 45% have applied for disability benefits. This represents a significant number of men and women who are bearing the physical and/or psychological scars of war. The phrase in the middle of the wreath on this coins reverse asks us to honor the disabled defenders of freedom. Accordingly, let us honor those who have stood in the gap for us on the battlefield by standing in the gap for them at home, and giving them the love and support they both need and deserve. May they never be forced to carry the physical scars and psychological burdens of war alone.
The Medal of Honor is this nations highest military decoration. It is awarded for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. There are currently three different medals, all illustrated on the obverse of the 2011 Medal of Honor commemorative dollar. The medal to the left is the Army Medal of Honor, the one on the right the Air Force Medal of Honor, and the one in the center the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Medal of Honor. The reverse of this coin features a soldier under enemy fire carrying a wounded soldier to safety. For me, this represents the Code of Honor our service men and women live by to leave no one behind, even at the cost of his or hers life. The Holy Bible states that, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. This then is the type of honor, valor, courage, and love that all Medal of Honor recipients display. To date, less than 3500 Medals of Honor have been awarded. However, I would like to believe that to one degree or another, there are many more displays of these virtues that go on unrecognized on the battlefield. We as a nation can be proud of the people that make up our Armed Forces and the courage they exhibit in the face of grave danger.
The final coin of my tribute is the 2011-W Medal of Honor five-dollar gold piece. The obverse of this coin features an image of the original Medal of Honor established in 1861. On the coins reverse is a likeness of the goddess Minerva carrying a Union shield in her right hand and the flag of the United States in the other, behind her are Civil War era munitions and a cannon. In Roman mythology, Minerva is the goddess of war, wise counsel, defense of towns, and heroic endeavor. The shield is representative of the Armed Forces of the United States; the flag is the banner under which they fight. As a defensive shield, is our military then defending a piece of cloth, or a plot of land? Rather they are defending the people represented by the flag and the freedom and liberty of that people. The men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States then deserve our heartfelt thanks and gratitude. Freedom comes at a high price and is not free, but for the men and women of our nations military, it is a price worth paying.
As a veteran of the United States Navy during the cold war, I had often thought about how I would react if the call came to go to war. On my ship we spent countless hours training and preparing for such an event. Thankfully, for me, that call never came. However, today, scores of men and women are answering the call to arms, and many will pay the ultimate price on our behalf. Our veterans have given so much; let us not fail to show them the proper gratitude they deserve.
Happy Veterans Day, November 11, 2012.
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