Remember those bronze coins our Special Forces guys invented to show unit pride? Maj. Joe Arthur, a gunship pilot at Duke Field, suggests the coins may not have originated with our Brother Men Who Fight after all. As a case in point, he recounts this tale.
"One of our reservists here was prowling around the wreckage of a C-123 that crashed off the end of the runway here sometime back in the '60s. People have been visiting that site for about 30 years, but this guy-he's a reservist, T. Sgt. James Best-looked down and saw what appeared to be a coin sticking out of the ground. He originally thought it was a foreign coin, because he didn't recognize it.
"He picked it up-it was a lot like a Special Forces coin except a little thinner-and saw it was a Masonic coin. The name on it was Jimmy Jefferies. It also listed his Lodge number in Mississippi. I contacted the Grand Lodge of Mississippi, and they verified a James H. Jefferies died on January 25, 1968. I also got the name of his mother in Mississippi and a half-sister near Montgomery. In fact, the coin was found on the sister's birthday.
"I contacted the Air Force Air Safety Center in New Mexico. They confirmed a James H. Jefferies was the flight mechanic on the C-123 that crashed here on January 25, 1968. No one knows why the crash happened. There was an instructor pilot, a first pilot, a co-pilot, and a flight mechanic on board. They were doing simulated engine-out approaches. All on board were killed.
"I'm contacting his mother, and if it's OK, I'll deliver the coin to her. She lives in Summit, Mississippi, and darned if I can find it on a map. But I'll deliver the coin."
There's never a happy ending to an airplane crash, but this is a heck of a nice postscript. The crash occurred about a mile short of Runway 36 at Duke Field. But you, Brothers Best and Arthur, have gone the extra mile.
The above article, slightly edited for presentation in the Journal, is reprinted with permission from the Northwest Florida Daily News of September 17, 1996, Sec. B, Page 1. Several of the participants in this story have a tie to Masonry. Maj. Joseph Martin Arthur, who traced the history of the coin, is a USAF Reservist at Duke Field and a 32ø member of the Valley of Pensacola, Florida. Technical Sergeant James Best who found the coin is a Senior DeMolay. Brother James H. Jefferies was a member of Summit, Mississippi, Lodge No. 231. His 95-year-old mother having recently passed away, the coin found in the locale of the C-123 wreckage will be presented to Brother Jefferies's Lodge for its archives by Maj. Joseph M. Arthur, 32ø, Public Affairs, Eglin AFB, who is a member of the Valley of Pensacola. Our thanks to Brother William O. Walker, 32ø, Pensacola Scottish Rite Bodies, who forwarded this material to the Journal saying: "The symbolism of this story is powerful. I believe this article will have special meaning for many of us, particularly Masons who served in the Armed Forces."