Since I started my collection of Laura Gardin Fraser coins and medals, the 1920 American Army and Navy chaplains medal has been at the top of my list to purchase. These medals rarely become available for sale and the last one I bid in 2015, I was outbid. Since then I had e-bay searches set up to locate others that may become available.
Though these medals are scarce, they don’t cost too much since the demand is low. It’s just that the people who own them rarely sell them. With a pocket full of e-bay bucks I searched for ways to spend my bucks when I came across the medal with a BIN price that just had listed hours earlier with one watcher. I didn’t give it a second thought and quickly snatched what will be the cornerstone of my medal collection.
This medal struck by the Gorham Co. was awarded to all the Army and Navy chaplains of World War 1. It is also fitting that Laura Gardin Fraser should design and sculpt this medal. Both Frasers loved America and the armed forces of the United States. Laura had a long and cordial relationship with the West Point Army Academy that I will write about later. Interestingly, during WWI Laura volunteered to drive ambulances transporting wounded soldiers. Thus the obverse reveals her passion reminiscent of the Good Samaritan depicting a chaplain giving a wounded soldier a drink.
As a Christian in the United States Navy in the late 70’s early 80’s, this medal kind of has a personal connection. On top of the chaplain of our ship providing spiritual assistance he also provided humanitarian assistance. The post Vietnam War era created a huge refugee problem. While at sea and 100 miles off the coast of Vietnam in the South China Sea we rescued dozens of refugees, many of them children from certain peril. It’s hard to imagine what would make a person put out to sea in nothing but a rickety wooden raft in hopes of being rescued. Only God knows the numbers of people never found. Of the ones we rescued we really adored the kids, and although the Vietnam War still triggers passionate emotions, I am proud to have been a part of that operation.