In many organizations, “challenge coins” recognize significant achievements or immortalize harrowing experiences. The custom-made souvenirs might be made to recognize anything from serving in a military unit to serving under a particular president.
For the Secret Service, a challenge coin is now a way to remember the month (and counting) when they had to work without pay, CNN reports. The new Secret Service challenge coin carries the words “DON’T WORRY, YOU’LL GET BACKPAY” on one side and “UNITED STATES SECRET SERVICE — ESSENTIAL PERSONNEL” on the other. Also appearing is a Secret Service badge covered by a “no” sign that reads “Shut Happens.”
Because members of the Secret Service are deemed essential personnel by the standards for federal workers, they are required to continue working despite not being paid as the ongoing partial government shutdown continues. As with most federal workers, they can expect to receive backpay when the government officially reopens.
As is typical with challenge coins issued by U.S. government agencies, the tokens are made without government money and are paid for by the agents themselves.
Part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Secret Service includes more than 7,000 individuals. Although about 1,200 are waiting out the shutdown at home, another 6,000 continue to work without pay, per DHS shutdown regulations.
The emergence of the playful coins comes on the heels of reports that the Secret Service was suffering in terms of morale, with many of the agents responsible for the safety of government leaders facing substantial personal stress due to the financial strain of the shutdown.
“If you’ve got guys thinking about how they’re going to make their house payment, I can just tell you, you’re not doing your job right. Your head is not in the right place — this is affecting people,” said one agent to CNN on condition of anonymity.
In addition to the personal financial pinch, lack of funding during the shutdown has also begun to affect day-to-day agency operations.
“It’s cutting off certain functions that help us just do our jobs,” said another unnamed agent. “We drive things, things break. We do things and things break. We already operate with old equipment — we’ve been underfunded and understaffed for so many years now, and it’s going to catch up to us.”
Historically, challenge coins have proven generally collectible and of particular interest to government or military enthusiasts.
The Secret Service has not yet commented on their coins.