Spe­cial coin is­sued in honor of brave in­fantry

The Washington Times Daily - - Life - PETER M. REX­FORD

In the past cen­tury or so, much has changed for the U.S. mil­i­tary. Cer­tainly, tech­nol­ogy has trans­formed combat into some­thing akin to sci­ence fic­tion. Public at­ti­tudes also have changed. Up un­til just this year, pa­rades and civic ac­co­lades for re­turn­ing troops were a thing of the past.

There may be a rea­son for that. In 1918 and 1945, there was no ques­tion that U.S. troops truly had won the wars over­seas. The public sac­ri­ficed as well with scrap drives, ra­tioning and vol­un­teer­ing, but the troops com­ing home were the he­roes march­ing in ticker-tape pa­rades.

Not so with Korea. To this day, that war is still called a “po­lice ac­tion” — the most fool­ish mis­nomer in mil­i­tary/po­lit­i­cal his­tory. In the case of Viet­nam vets, some came home to peo­ple who ques­tioned their pur­pose and con­duct. Gre­nada was a blip on the radar screen.

Then came Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. Tech­nol­ogy de­liv­ered de­tailed cov­er­age and stream­ing images. On the nightly news, ev­ery­one could wit­ness live images of troops un­der fire and tac­ti­cal mis­sions tak­ing place in real time. That first­hand in­sight into what sol­diers were up against is in­vari­ably why pa­rades and recog­ni­tion now take place.

Re­turn­ing troops are quick to ad­mit that dis­trac­tions help them cope. One way is to take pride in their branch of the ser­vice and, of course, de­ride oth­ers. The Army and Navy are prime ex­am­ples, and the Marines and Air Force. All have rea­sons to be­lieve they are and al­ways have been “the best.” It’s a fun and ben­e­fi­cial ri­valry.

I’d never dare to ven­ture into that fray and don’t care to in­sult any­one by choos­ing one mil­i­tary branch over an­other. That be­ing said, there’s no type of war­rior I have more re­spect for than those in the in­fantry, no mat­ter which branch they come from.

Con­sider their re­al­ity. Af­ter the bombs have been dropped, ar­tillery shelled and mis­siles fired, it’s the in­fantry sol­dier who walks into the ri­fle sights of the en­emy. It’s been that way since be­fore the Rev­o­lu­tion, through D-day and con­tin­u­ing to­day. That level of courage is her­culean and un­known to most of us.

Ev­i­dently, the U.S. Mint feels the same, given a new com­mem­o­ra­tive coin is­sued ex­pressly for the in­fantry. In the words of the Mint, “[T]he in­fantry has borne the brunt of sac­ri­fice for se­cur­ing and pro­tect­ing the free­doms of this na­tion, our friends and al­lies. The in­fantry is the ‘boots on the ground’ . . . and owns the last 100 yards of the bat­tle­field.”

It’s hard to say it bet­ter than that. In recog­ni­tion of that ded­i­ca­tion and sac­ri­fice, the Mint has is­sued the com­mem­o­ra­tive In­fantry Sol­dier Sil­ver Dol­lar. The ob­verse fea­tures an im­age of an in­fantry sol­dier ad­vanc­ing with his ri­fle and sig­nal­ing other troops to fol­low. On the re­verse is the fa­mil­iar crossed-ri­fle in­signia rec­og­nized in­ter­na­tion­ally as the in­di­cia of the in­fantry.

Like most com­mem­o­ra­tive coins, the In­fantry Sol­dier Sil­ver Dol­lar is be­ing sold in proof and un­cir­cu­lated con­di­tion for $49.95 and $44.95, re­spec­tively.

In ad­di­tion, the Mint is of­fer­ing the proof ver­sion in a “De­fend­ers of Free­dom” set that comes in a folder in­clud­ing a replica of a dog tag on a short chain and other printed in­for­ma­tion. It’s an in­ven­tive way for the coin to be pre­sented. It sells for $51.95.

The sil­ver dol­lar coins, in all forms, are cur­rently avail­able from the U.S. Mint. For more in­for­ma­tion or to or­der the coins, go to Us­mint.gov. An early-buyer dis­count is in ef­fect un­til March 19; af­ter that date, the price for each coin will in­crease by $5.

Even more in­ter­est­ing and ap­pro­pri­ate, just two weeks ago, 200 Army in­fantry grad­u­ates were each given one of the coins af­ter the grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony at Fort Ben­ning, Ga. That should hap­pen much more. In fact, I’d ad­vo­cate that it makes sense to re­serve for fu­ture grad­u­ates at least 100,000 of the 350,000 coins minted. Af­ter all, who de­serves them more?

And, of course, they could be a nice trib­ute to a re­turn­ing sol­dier you may know. It may not be a pa­rade, but a nice gesture nev­er­the­less. Just a thought.

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