Cameron Smith, executive director of the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs, recently awarded each member of the local “Got Your Six” band with a military challenge coin for their work to promote and raise funds for vet causes.
“I got chills when he handed it to us,” said Chris Mumford, founder and drummer for the band named after the military term for “Got Your Back.”
The coin has the state seal on one side, along with an expression of appreciation for those who have served. The flip side bears the logo for the agency and is inscribed with the words “ODVA, Where Every Day is Veterans Day.”
Many military historians believe the tradition behind the challenge coin originated in World War I after a downed pilot used his squadron's coin as identification while making his escape from German territory.
He stumbled across French forces in a small town near the front lines and was almost executed.
However, he presented the coin to show that he was an American and was allowed to cross into friendly territory and return to his battle station.
Since that time, it has become common practice for all battle groups to have a coin that bears their seal or emblem and includes heraldic imagery.
What began as a military test to ensure the coins were being carried has evolved into a challenge that involves a beverage.
The contest begins when someone slaps his or her coin onto a table or bar. If the person challenged can't produce a coin, he or she is required to buy the challenger a drink of choice.
If a coin is produced, its value is compared with that of the challenger's coin to determine who will buy the drink. For example, a limited-edition coin handed out by a general will outrank the more common coin of a battalion.
Smith, a Marine veteran, gave the coins to the six members of the band while they were playing July 15 at the Veteran Resource Fair in Redmond, the first event held by ODVA in Central Oregon.
Seventy-five state and federal service providers, nonprofit agencies, employers and other local partners provided veterans and their families with information on a full range of benefits, including job and education opportunities.
The event was held at the Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center and “Got Your Six” played for about two hours, said Mumford. Another band, “DD214” out of Roseburg, also performed.
Mumford has been carrying the challenge coin in his pocket to show people, but said he will ultimately frame it in a shadow box where it is protected and can be displayed.
The members of “Got Your Six, which is tied to the nonprofit organization “Outside the Wire,” are veterans, with the exception of Paul Viemeister, band director at The Dalles High School.
“We give him credit for doing battle with teenagers for 40 years,” said Mumford, who served in the Army.
“Paul’s father also served in World War I so he gets credit for that.”
The other members of the band are: Bob Fisher, an Army veteran; Dave Rice, who also served in the Army; and Tim Vergori, an Air Force veteran. Navy vet Dale Rollins serves as “coach, sound man and spare guitarist.”
In the past several months, “Got Your Six” has been on the move, performing for a range of events in several cities.
They will be the first of three bands to take the stage during the Neon Cruise weekend at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 12 in the Lewis and Clark Festival Park at the foot of Union Street.
In mid-September, the band plays for the party tied to the Eagles’ poker run that will raise funds for The Dalles Outpost of Pointman International Ministries.
Then, on Sept. 12, Mumford and company will set up in the parking lot of Community Meals to provide entertainment for the community and promote a volunteer drive by the nonprofit agencies that serves meals to the homeless and others.
“We’re going to make an event out of it,” said Mumford of that upcoming performance.
“Got Your Six” banks at Rivermark Credit Union and donations can be made there.
Mumford can be reached for more information about the band, or to schedule an appearance, at 541-980-1911.