March 01, 2007

Name: MAJOR Michael Irwin
Posting date: 3/1/07
Returned from: Iraq
Email: [email protected]

It’s the little things that get our attention –- in this case, five cents.

At overseas locations, the base economy is penny-less. AAFES (Army and Air Force Exchange Service) does not use pennies; all prices our rounded to the nearest nickel. The cost of shipping pennies is more than the value of the pennies themselves.

Here in Iraq they take it further; no coins at all. But they don’t round to the nearest dollar. Instead, they issue "pogs". These mini-gift-certificates are used in place of coins. On one side is the AAFES logo and some suitably patriotic image, and on the other a 5¢ 10¢ or 25¢ notation. AAFES makes it clear that "pogs" are cash value as depicted, and can be redeemed at any AAFES world wide for the full value. And really, I don’t want carry a bunch of loose change in a combat environment. This program makes sense.

So I have not seen a real coin in several months.

While shopping at the local BX to get something or other I handed the cashier some dollar bills, and put my hand out, expecting a few pogs. An odd weight settled in my hand. I looked down and Lo, there in my hand was a nickel! My two colleagues and I stopped talking and all gazed in wonder at the coin. It was as if there was an angelic chorus in the background, and the image of Jefferson seemed to glow. It was a real nickel. A tangible piece of home! A no-kidding bit of America!!  It was a remarkable moment...

To us, but not to the cashier. She looked at the slack-jawed idiot aircrew standing in front of her, staring, then looked at the coin in my hand for a moment, then looked at the three dummies again.

“Hey, it’s a nickel. Get over it! NEXT!”


Its amazing what you miss when you are a long way from home. take care Peace

This reminds me of a letter my grandfather wrote while in WWI. He traded one of his shaving coupons for a real quarter and wrote, "I bought an ice cream cone, a pack of cigs (I can hear Momma weeping real salty tears for her ruined boy) and a buffalo nickel rests securely in my front pocket right now...."

I guess it's true, there is no new thing under the sun. Stay safe.

Still have some of those pogs in my trunk from Iraq '03-'04. Junk to every one else, memories of Anaconda to me.

My mother (who has since passed away) always kept a letter in her Bible that she had mailed to my uncle during the war... In the letter she had to tell her brother that their father had passed away, and she also taped a nickel to the letter for him to spend on a coke cola (as they called it then)... He kept it during the war and after, and when he passed away, it was given back to my mom with the nickel intact... I now have the letter with the nickel intact... Such memories one nickel can ignite!

Now I won't see a nickel ever the same again. Thank you!

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