Volume No. 18 Issue No. 9 September 2021  

  Challenge coin remembers first responders

     At the Aug. 18 meeting of the Falcon Fire Protection District Board of Directors, board member Mike Collins presented his fellow board members and board attorney Joan Fritsche with challenge coins in memory of his son, Ben Montoya.
   Collins, who is also a chaplain for the FFPD, said challenge coins were first issued by the military. Years later, the New York City Fire Department started issuing them to honor fallen firefighters. The coins became a tradition throughout the country; eventually, the coins caught on in Colorado Springs.
   “I gave the board members coins because they have always supported me and my family,” Collins said.
   According to the website, customchallengecoins.net, a challenge coin is a specially designed coin given to someone to confirm membership in an organization or to recognize a person for a special achievement. The website states that military organizations and first responders use challenge coins to honor outstanding service and special accomplishments in the line of duty.
   The small, metal coins fit in the palm of the hand and sometimes have the emblem or insignia of the presenting organization engraved on them.
   This particular coin honors Collins' son, Chief Ben Montoya, who became a first responder at the age of 18. He served the Black Forest Fire Department, Ellicott Fire Department and the Liberal, Kansas, Fire Department; and was the chief of police for the Beaver, Oklahoma, Police Department. Chief Montoya also served in the military and was deployed to Qatar, Afghanistan.
   In January, he passed away from COVID-19.
   “I personally knew Ben,” said Rev. Brad Noonan of Our Lady of the Pines Catholic Church in Back Forest. “He was a remarkable young man.” Noonan is chaplain for the Colorado Springs Fire Department and oversees the distribution of challenge coins by the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs.
   The coin also honors Capt. Christoper Carneal, who served the Fort Carson Fire Department and the Fowler Police Department. He recently lost a battle with cancer.
   The front of the coins bears the names of the two men and the organizations they worked for as first responders. The blue and red stripes on the coins represent their connection to firefighting and policing. The reverse side of the coin displays images of St. Florian, patron saint of firefighters, and St. Michael, patron saint of policemen.
Mike Collins, board member of the Falcon Fire Protection District and chaplain for the FFPD, holds the challenge coin that was issued by the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs in memory of his son, Ben Montoya. Photos by Pete Gawda
    © 2004-2021 The New Falcon Herald. All rights reserved.