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NEWS | March 17, 2016

116th Submarine Ball Coins Bear Distinct Influence

By Lieutenant Junior Grade Samuel Boyle, Submarine Force Pacific Public Affairs

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – Members of the silent service may not speak much about what happens on mission or on patrol, but they will be celebrating their profession at the 116th Submarine Ball hosted by the Pacific Submarine Force on Apr. 15 and 16, 2016.

Attendants and collectors can remember this celebration by purchasing a challenge coin which the Pacific Submarine Force tasked Lt. Nick Bona with creating. The durable keepsake depicts a submarine proceeding beneath a pink sky garnished by a palm tree. Diamond Head State Monument stands eminently in the background and is emblazoned by silver and gold dolphin fish.

When Bona was charged with designing the commemorative coin, he asked his girlfriend Kiana De Costa for help. Bona is an enthusiast of body art and De Costa is a tattoo artist.

Bona claims his better half did most of the work. He rendered the image on his computer while De Costa drew the pink and green coin on paper.

“Overall, I wanted it to feel tropical and maintain a classic tattoo appearance,” said Bona. “The front of the coin utilizes a tattoo style banner and a font created by the iconic Sailor Jerry himself.”

Norman Keith Collins, also known as “Sailor Jerry”, was a tattoo artist who opened a shop in downtown Honolulu in the 1960s and became famous imprinting his work onto Sailors.

This year’s coin features nautical Hawaiian motifs. “Diamond Head is a bearing marker for navigating home to Pearl Harbor,” said Bona. “The black and white Polynesian lines around the outside are not random either. They are an ancient Polynesian symbol for ocean navigation.”

The way service members use coins has changed over decades. They have moved from the battlefield to the collectors’ stand.

Legend tells that a downed pilot in World War II used a challenge coin bearing his squadron’s crest to certify his allegiance when he was recovered by the Allies. It wasn’t until the 1990s that their popularity emerged for trading.

“They are a great table gift because they are sentimental and easy to transport,” said Todd Bonnici at Vanguard, a leading challenge coin manufacturer. He said that the use of coins naturally evolved from a token of membership to a way of commemorating special events.

The coins will be on sale at the 8th Annual St. Patrick's Day 5K Run on Mar. 18. The race is taking place on the historic and beautiful Ford Island with the race kicking off at 0700. Registration to participate is open now for military members and their dependents. Visit the "5K/GOLF TOURNAMENT" section of the COMSUBPAC 116th Submarine Birthday Ball website at for more information and the links to register for these events. Submarine birthday balls are being held throughout the Pacific Fleet area of operations in Bangor, Wash., Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, San Diego, Calif., and the island of Guam. For more information regarding these events, contact your local submarine squadron.