MM3 Aaron Hardrick and MCPON West

By Aaron Hardrick

Hardrick and West 2014-01-31_1127While stationed on USS George H.W. Bush, at the start of Christmas leave in 2010, I had an experience that made me realize that you never know who is around –and that can be a good thing.

My wife and I had everything packed and ready to go. I had just got done with a function that required me to be in my dress blues. In a hurry to hit the road and to start enjoying some much needed time off with my wife, I just grabbed my leave papers and jumped in the car, still wearing my dress blues.

I drove home to pick up the Mrs., loaded the bags that she had all packed, and decided to put off changing into civvies until we got to the hotel in Pentagon City, just outside of D.C.. We checked in and got to our room. I was preparing to change, when my wife and I had a conversation that set the stage for the night’s fortunate, surprise event.

We reasoned: Hey, we’re in our Nation’s Capital. It’s Christmas time. We’re going to be strolling this impressive city, the helm of our country’s government and its military, hand in hand. We decided that we should just go “full Navy.” I would wear my dress uniform, and my wife would change into something “dressy” that she packed for our vacation.

I’m glad I changed my mind instead of my clothes.

We walked around and saw the sites in downtown D.C. –typical tourists, yet wearing some not-so-typical duds. We enjoyed ourselves, and even some of the looks we got from the other tourists who seemed to appreciate how my Crackerjacks were adding to their Washington D.C. experience.

It was getting near dinnertime. We were pretty hungry and tuckered out from walking around all day, so we decided to head back to the hotel, right after we got a bite to eat. I whipped out my smartphone, and looked up some restaurants. I found this little, out-of-the-way Greek restaurant called Athena Pallas. They had a modest menu, and were located a short distance from us, down a little back road.

It was quaint, but crowded. I real nice place. It was well lit, and pleasantly decked out in white and light blue. As we sat down and picked up the menus, this guy walks over. He came right to our table, and started practically grilling me with questions, including “why are you out and about the city wearing dress blues?”

Wanting to properly represent, especially while in uniform, to this inquisitive, middle-aged, D.C. Civilian-type, I came back with a very Digget-type answer. I responded, “Well Sir, because I’m proud of being a United States Sailor.”

Digget big 2014-01-31_1113

This gentleman and I chatted a little bit more, and then and he went back to his table to rejoin his family, and enjoy his meal.

master chief 2014-01-30_2127

Challenge Coin (Photo Credit Ebay) This is an award, like a “medal” however it is less official. Award is traditionally given inside a handshake.

Before he left Athena Pallas, he came over again to bid us goodnight, while offering a handshake. I stood and grabbed his hand, and when I did, I felt a challenge coin in it. I barely got a good look at it before I said “thank you, Sir!”

He quickly corrected me, saying “you don’t need to ‘Sir’ me, I’m the damn Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy!” I just stood, looking him up and down, as I’m pretty sure he saw my jaw drop to the floor.

As my wife and I were getting ready to leave, he asked for a picture with me and I did the same.

A brief introduction to Challenge Coins by  Jim Harris
Challenge coins have been around for awhile. Wiki has a picture of one from 1947. An army tradition, the coin was given to members of special units to prove they were part of the unit. Later they were adopted by regular units and leadership types to be gifted to recipients for various reasons, and spread to other branches of the Military.
The original “challenge” was usually to prove a claim of some type and the coin was the answer to that challenge. Today if a group of veterans gets together a general challenge can be tossed out there, if everyone has a coin the guy that challenged buys a round. If someone doesn’t have a coin they buy the round.

Join Sea Stories Group 2014-01-26_2047

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