Favorites and first times: Civilians recall when pressed flesh produced a commander's coin
October 29, 2013
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - The first of anything can produce special feelings or memories. A first job can be nerve-wracking but leave one with lifelong memories. A first visit to a professional ball park often makes kids fans into their adult years, and many can remember the name of their first school days crush.
A large number of Department of Defense employees and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall soldiers can reminisce about the first occasion when they were awarded a commander's coin.
DoD contractor Diana Rodriguez has a decade of employment experience around the Military District of Washington. She currently works for the National Guard Bureau in website content and strategic outreach, but she remembers when she started her military support career at the Pentagon.
"Here I am - a new employee in a military environment. I had never worked in the military before," Rodriguez said as she started the story. "I was in the Pentagon working in Army Strategic Communication. I saw all these amazing coin collections on people's desks. I was amazed and mesmerized. My co-workers were very generous to explain it [the coin exchange process] to me. The first coin I ever got was a Director of Army Staff coin. He did not present it to me. One of my co-workers who worked in that office gave it to me because I was so enamored with that coin."
Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Public Affairs team member Brian Parker was given an advantage in commander's coin collecting - he was once an Old Guard soldier. As a TOG public affairs service member, being involved in a presidential inaugural, football bowl games, sporting events and providing base escorts allowed the veteran to build his collection to nearly 40 coins.
Parker's initial coin presentation happened less than 30 days on the job for The Old Guard, and it displayed the fact that military coins can bridge a gap between directorates and military attachments which don't frequently interact with each other.
"The very first one I ever got was when the base was called the Fort Myer Military Community," Parker said. "The coin was from the installation chaplain. We really didn't work with the installation chaplains that much, but he came in, and I had taken some photos of an event. I had just been with The Old Guard for a month. I gave him the photos on a disk, and he actually flipped the coin at me. I caught it and said: 'my first coin.' That was like a big deal. I didn't get any in basic training.
"I have a couple of Honor Guard inaugural coins [from 2009]. I had a fifth coin, but I ended up trading that one. I had so many because I was in charge of a couple of soldiers who were performing. I got about 15 coins, and I was handing them out to soldiers. I ended up keeping a couple for myself."
Rodriquez's favorite coin from her collection of 40 came into her possession following a farewell.
"My favorite one is the coin given to me by the sergeant major of Public Affairs Sgt. Maj. Phil Prater," she explained. "When he was getting ready to retire, I went to his office to say goodbye; he gave me one of his coins. That really, really meant a lot to me."
(This story is part of an on-going series on commander's coin collecting.)