Two new bills for commemorative coins, both pertaining to the U.S. military, have been introduced into the U.S. Congress.
The Duty First Act (H.R. 1582) was introduced on March 16 by Representative Steve Russell (R-Okla.). It authorizes a three-coin program to commemorate the 2017 centennial of the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division. The division’s historic accomplishments and honors could, and do, fill books; the following (extremely brief) summary is compiled from the text of the bill.
Constituted on May 24, 1917, the 1st Infantry Division (1 ID) is the first and oldest permanently established combat division of the U.S. Army. It has been in continuous service since its organization, and has fought with distinction in every major conflict since 1917 except the Korean War, when it was on occupation duty in Germany. This year, 2017, is the centennial of the Division.
The 1 ID was the first U.S. division to reach France in World War I; it fired the first American shots of the war; it suffered the first American casualties; and it secured the first American victory. In World War II, the 1 ID was the first to deploy to Europe, and was the lead assault division on Omaha beach in Normandy on D-Day. It was one of the first two combat divisions deployed to Vietnam in 1965, and it deterred Soviet aggression against NATO Europe from 1970 to 1990.
The 1 ID deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1991 in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and to Iraq in 2004–2005 in OIF II. Its brigade combat teams and other elements deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2014. Its soldiers have deployed to Iraq and Kuwait to assist the Iraqi Security Forces and other friendly countries in that vital and unstable region. The 1 ID will be deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea in 2016 and 2017, its centennial year.
Thirty-six 1 ID soldiers have been decorated with the Medal of Honor, and countless others have distinguished themselves in combat. The 1st Infantry Division has served the United States with great valor and distinction since its organization, living up to its motto, “No mission too difficult, no sacrifice too great—Duty First.”
H.R. 1582 calls for a maximum of 20,000 gold $5 coins, 100,000 silver $1 coins, and 200,000 clad half dollars. These coins would be issued during calendar year 2018. The surcharges of $35, $10, and $5 (respectively) would go to the Society of the 1st Infantry Division for renovation of the existing 1st Infantry Division Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 1683) was introduced on March 22 by Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.). As the bill’s name suggests, the three-coin program would honor recipients of the Purple Heart Medal, with surcharges going to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, located in Rep. Maloney’s 18th District. The following is compiled from Section 2 of the bill.
The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor’s mission is to commemorate the extraordinary sacrifice of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen who have been killed or wounded in combat; and to collect and preserve the stories of National Purple Heart recipients from all branches of service and across generations to ensure that all recipients are represented. The Hall of Honor first opened its doors on November 10, 2006, in New Windsor, N.Y. It is located at the New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site, where General George Washington’s army camped during the Revolutionary War and where he first awarded the Badge of Military Merit, a piece of purple cloth that became the model for the Purple Heart.
The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is the first to recognize the more than 1.7 million servicemembers wounded or killed in action ranging from the American Revolutionary War to the present day, serving as a living memorial to their sacrifice by sharing their stories through interviews, exhibits, and the Roll of Honor, an interactive computer database of each recipient.
H.R. 1683 calls for a maximum of 50,000 gold $5 coins, 400,000 silver $1 coins, and 750,000 clad half dollars. The coins would be issued during calendar year 2020, and the surcharges of $35, $10, and $5 would go to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor to help finance the construction of a new building and the renovation of existing facilities.
This is not the first time an attempt has been made to stir interest in a commemorative for the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor. The concept first arose as H.R. 3867 in 2014, but died on the vine for lack of interest. It was resurrected in January 2015 as HR 358, but again faltered for lack of support. ❑