Being the police reporter here at the Times since 2004, I have met many men and women in blue who are dedicated to serving the tri-county area. I have been chatting or emailing with several on a weekly basis to provide police reports and details about crimes and accidents for our readers. I remember talking weekly to the late Linden Police Chief Pete VanDriessche until he retired in 2010. He knew and loved the city of Linden and he protected his city. RIP Pete.
A very close friend of mine reached out to me and another friend who is married to a retired police officer. My friend had sad news to share about her nephew who is a police officer in Bradenton, Florida. Turns out her nephew was recently diagnosed with stage four renal cancer. He’s young, married and has two very young daughters. It’s heartbreaking. My friend said her nephew has been collecting “challenge coins” for years and she figured I might know of some police officers that might be willing to share a challenge coin with her nephew. For some reason, I had not heard of these coins before so she sent me a photo of his collection. His collection boosts his morale and motivates him in his line of work.
I reached out to my contacts and immediately I heard back from Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe, who told me that he would arrange to drop off a coin by the end of that day. My law enforcement friends understood what my friend’s nephew is going through and without hesitation wanted to lend support. Undersheriff McCabe came through in record time and had a colleague drop off two beautiful coins that have made their way to Florida.
Shortly after hearing from him, I got a phone call from Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson. When I told him the wife of my friend’s cousin wanted to surprise him with a challenge coin every time he goes to the hospital for a cancer treatment, he too did not hesitate with finding a few coins to share. Sheriff Swanson stopped in town on his way home from work and actually shared six challenge coins he had been given over the years, including two from Florida and one from Canada. He also had a beautiful coin representing his sheriff’s office.
Last week, I met with my girlfriend to give her the coins. She just lit up with a big smile knowing what these coins will mean to her nephew.
Fenton Police Chief Jason Slater told me he would be sending over a coin just as soon as more came in.
After a bit of research on these coins, I learned these military challenge coins are rooted in the history of civilization from the Romans to the American colonials. In more recent years, they are given to those facing a challenge or to enhance morale.
I’ll keep everyone posted on my friend’s nephew and his expanding challenge coin collection.