Scott AFB, Ill -- Military challenge coins have been a tradition for more than a century, instilling pride, building esprit de corps, and serving as a reward for dedication. An employee from the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command recently earned 13 challenge coins by visiting museums throughout the state of Missouri.
Dennis White, chief of the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s G3 Special Requirements Branch for Domestic Movement, acquired his final coin for completing visits to all 12 sites in the Military Trails of Missouri program.
“You get a passport stamped and a coin for each site you visit and then a completion coin for visiting all 12 sites,” he said.
The Military Trails of Missouri program invites families and individuals to visit a total of 12 military museums, memorials, and battlefields throughout Missouri, each with a unique feature of the state’s military history. Participants go from site to site collecting commemorative stamps and coins and learn about Missouri’s connection to military-related events from the Revolutionary War through modern-day warfare, and the state’s veterans, military heroes, and leaders. The coins presented hold true to instilling pride, dedication and esprit de corps for the visits.
“By providing an incentive program to encourage folks to visit the military sites in person, Missouri Humanities hopes to stimulate cultural tourism and Missouri’s economy, all the while providing a deeper appreciation for the military heritage each site has to offer,” said Lisa Carrico, program director.
This incentive is what peaked White’s interest in the program. While attending training at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., he decided to visit the World War I National Museum in Kansas City, Mo.
“As I was paying, I saw this passport book and I asked about it,” he said. “After looking at it, I saw that four of the 12 sites were within one hour of Fort Leavenworth and two were in St. Louis. I figured, what the heck, and my adventure to visit all 12 sites began. I am glad I did. I learned so much.”
White’s adventure would take about three months to complete, and he would end up traveling about 1,960 miles all over the state of Missouri.
“It is very difficult to pick a favorite, but the one site that hit closest to home was the Stars and Stripes National Library and Museum,” he said. “They had every issue of the Stars and Stripes printed in the Pacific and European regions. I spent nine years of my Army career in Germany and read the Stars and Stripes regularly.”
White said he has a deep appreciation for the Army. At 15, he joined Army JROTC in high school. After graduation, he immediately joined the Army with a 3-year enlistment, and transitioned to the Army Reserves where he earned his Transportation specialty. He then returned to active-duty status and later retired in 2007. He went on to teach Army Transportation systems as a contractor, which eventually led him to a position and career as an Army civilian with SDDC.
“The Army is why I am who I am,” he said. “It’s molded me into being a better person. I owe the Army everything. So, it’s been an amazing experience going to all these sites and learning part of Army history you wouldn’t learn or experience anywhere else.”
Although the program doesn’t track exactly how many people complete the trails, White has shared his experiences with coworkers and inspired others to start their own adventure.
“I really haven't ventured into checking out historical sites before, but this program has given me a better perspective,” he said. “I think after this I may set out to see what sites there are in Illinois.”
More information about the Military Trails of Missouri can be found at https://mohumanities.org/military-trails-of-missouri.