There are several stories detailing the origins of the challenge coin. One of the most popular starts in WWI when an American lieutenant gave bronze medallions to his fellow pilots as mementos of their service together. One pilot kept his “coin” with him at all times. When this pilot was shot down behind enemy lines, he was made to forfeit his personal belongings. But he did not forfeit his coin. The pilot escaped and, after a time, was picked up by a French patrol on the lookout for German saboteurs. Without identification, the pilot was assumed to be a saboteur. The French prepared to execute him. Desperate, the pilot showed his coin. One of the Frenchmen recognized the insignia and delayed the execution until the pilot’s identity was confirmed. After the pilot was reunited with his squadron, its leader made it a tradition for all members to carry their coins at all times. Gradually, this practice spread to other military units…and eventually to non-military organizations. During Salute to Service, the NFL uses military challenge coins during the coin flip prior to NFL games.