Military challenge coins don’t often come without great stories, and this former Navy Seal has quite the unforgettable collection.

Idyllwild sees quite a bit of hikers that are making their way through along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the scenic 2,650-mile trail that runs from Mexico to Canada and through California, Oregon, and Washington. The hike usually takes people 6 months to complete!

It’s inspiring to see them come through here and because my partner and I are members of, we got a chance to host one for a couple of nights while he stopped on his journey to rest and refill some of his resources.

The wonderful thing about hosting like this is the amazing people you meet. Kurtis, our PCT hiking Couch Surfer is a former Navy Seal who served our country for 12 years. I had spent some time talking with him about his travels, but it wasn’t until he joined us at Cafe Aroma, where a very typical Monterey Company business meeting was taking place that I realized he has been the recipient of many Military Challenge Coins. It was exciting to hear first hand about this tradition of honoring each other in Military service, and how Military Challenge Coins get passed out.

Kurtis shared that each time he finished serving a tour of duty he received a Military Challenge Coin commemorating his specific unit and the tour they did. He would also receive a Military Coin at the end of specific operations he and his unit would participate in. The passing of coins, of course, is a symbol of honor and Kurtis is particularly proud of two Military Challenge Coins in particular that he received from two intelligence officers from Saudi Arabia for his work in a mission.

One of the stories that excited me most was that during his training, he went to Spain for jump training. He worked with the Spanish Special Ops unit and at the end of his training received a 14 karat gold jump wing lapel pin from the Queen of Spain!

But most heartwarming of all was when he made sure to share that operation team members give a lot of sentimental meaning to Military Challenge Coins, and they become symbols of friendship and respect. So if one serviceman had received their coin from an officer he wasn’t necessarily close with, but had a friend in the same team with the same coin, they would trade coins with each other to give that coin more meaning because it had actually come from a friend and unit member.

Now while Kurtis is hiking the PCT, his Military Challenge Coins are back home, tucked away in a drawer. He hopes to create a glass case to display them in once this adventure is over.