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Retiree Donates 'Support Our Troops' Wooden Nickels

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2004 – As a show of support for the men and women in uniform, a San Antonio businessman is giving away free wooden nickels imprinted with the words, "Support Our Troops" and "The Price of Freedom is NOT Free!"

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Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Herb Hornung of San Antonio, Texas, estimates he has distributed more than 50,000 free novelty wooden nickels in support of U.S. troops. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

Herb Hornung, a retired Air Force master sergeant who now runs the Old Time Wooden Nickel Co., has a long history of passing out wooden nickels with slogans supporting America's veterans.

So when the United States started deploying service members to Iraq, Hornung decided to print up wooden nickels urging people to support the troops. Initially he carried pockets full of them around town and handed them out when he noticed men and women in uniform. Then he got the brainstorm to broaden his effort and promote the giveaway on his company Web site.

Hornung estimates that since he started his cyber-effort he's given away about 50,000 "Support the Troops" nickels. Requests have poured in from throughout the United States, he said, and a few have come from Canada. Some requests come from overseas military post office addresses, but Hornung said he's not sure if they're from Iraq or other overseas locations.

The first wooden nickels were issued during the Depression when two Washington state banks failed, leaving their communities with a money shortage. Later, wooden coins became popular for use at state fairs and centennials. The old saying, "Don't take any wooden nickels" cautioned people not to accept wooden money during the last days of a fair, in case they didn't get to cash them in before the event ended.

Likewise, while Hornung's "Support the Troops" coins can't be used as legal tender, he's hopeful the coins he gives away have a significant although less tangible, value. "I figured that this is something I can do to show support for the troops and to let them know that we're behind them," he said.

To request four free wooden nickels, send a self-addressed business-size envelope with two first-class stamps to: Support Our Troops, Wooden Nickel Building, 345 Austin Road, San Antonio, TX 78209.

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