Each of the 174 Infantrymen who graduated Friday at the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center received a 2012 Infantry Soldier Silver Dollar. The coin, just released for purchase Thursday, commemorates the Infantryman. The gifted coins — 230 in total which were given to the graduates, cadre, support staff and special guests — were paid for by a private supporter of the Army.
“It’s sort of a physical embodiment of our accomplishments,” said Pvt. Aaron Sallee, F Company, 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, after being handed his coin.
“Words can’t really describe how it feels — being a new member of the Infantry. It gives me a great sense of pride,” he said.
“With this coin the Infantry adds silver to its blue,” said B.B. Craig, associate director of sales and marketing for the U.S. Mint, who spoke at the graduation ceremony, addressing the newest class of Infantryman standing on the parade field.
“You will remember this day all of your life, and I am proud that this coin will be part of the memory,” he said.
More than a dozen active-duty and retired command sergeants major presented the coins to the graduates.
“It felt pretty special,” said Pvt. Steven Conway of graduating as an Infantryman and receiving the commemorative coin. “I come from an Army family, so it’s a really big honor. It means everything to me. I feel like the only way to go in the Army is in the Infantry. I’m definitely going to save (this coin and) pass it down.”
Including the coin’s launch in an Infantry graduation was intentional, said retired Col. Greg Camp, the National Infantry Foundation’s vice president and chief development officer. “We thought what better way to introduce it than to present the newly minted coin to newly minted Infantrymen?” he said.
“These young men are just learning about the brotherhood they have joined. Imagine how meaningful it will be to them 25 years from now when they pull this coin out of the drawer and reflect back on their first day as an Infantry Soldier. And to have active duty and retired command sergeants major making the presentation seemed the perfect way to tie the old guard to the new.”
“There is a lot of symbolism tied to this coin,” he said.
“It represents ideals shared by Infantry Soldiers and American citizens — ideals of courage, pride, sacrifice and sense of duty. It will be a very special memento to Infantry Soldiers past and present, a reminder of their service to the nation. There probably isn’t an Infantryman alive who wouldn’t cherish this piece. The added benefit is that $10 from every coin sold will help support the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center, whose mission is to preserve Infantry history and educate Americans about the branch’s 237-year legacy of valor.”
The National Infantry Foundation petitioned Congress six years ago to authorize the creation of a coin specifically honoring the Infantry, Camp said.
“The Mint produces only two such commemorative coins each year, so we had to wait our turn; 2012 is our year.
“That legislation was passed and signed by the president in 2008,” he said.
Congress authorized the U.S. Mint to strike up to 350,000 of the commemorative silver dollars, said Cyndy Cerbin, director of communications for the National Infantry Foundation, in a press release Feb. 13. The foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, supports and operates the museum.
The coins will be offered in proof and uncirculated quantities and will cost between $44.95 and $54.95, Cerbin said in the release.
The coins will be sold only this year, so Camp encouraged people to pick one up if they were interested and tell their friends about the opportunity.
Individuals can purchase the coin online at www.usmint.gov/catalog by clicking on the “Commemoratives” tab. Or, save on shipping by buying it at the Soldier Store inside the museum.
For directions to the museum or more about the coin, visit www.nationalinfantrymuseum.com.