Sitting in a display cabinet at Timothy Albanese's home are eight special coins. Seven of them represent the 23 years he served in the Air Force as a Technical Sergeant. The other one is from Premera Blue Cross.
Challenge coins are used throughout the United States Armed Forces to symbolize unit identity and brotherhood.
"Coins are special to military people. You just don't hand them out,” said Albanese.
Each coin tells a story about a specific moment. For example, one coin represents a moment when he was diverted to New York City during the attacks of September 11, 2001. The coins help Albanese connect with his son who is interested in military history.
After returning to Washington state and briefly working at Comcast, Albanese joined Premera in Mountlake Terrace. He currently works as a Specialist on the Provider Information Team.
Starting in 2015, Premera passed out challenge coins to veterans in honor of their years of service.
“There is a sense of comradery. It doesn't matter what branch you served in, we are all just one military,” Albanese said. “If you served, you're a brother.”
Albanese carried his Premera coin during a gathering celebrating the life of a fallen member from a past unit. His former commander saw the coin and asked him the story behind the military coin. He was surprised when Albanese said it came from his current employer, a civilian organization.
"Veterans have a very specific skill set that can benefit Premera,” said Mindy Schneider, a recruiter at Premera. “They are mission driven and align with Premera's values.”
Recognition at Premera
On Friday, more than 155 veterans gathered for a special luncheon in Mountlake Terrace. Jeff Roe, CEO of Premera, and Dr. Phil Colmenares, Chief Medical Officer at Premera, thanked them for their service.
"What an amazing group of individuals we have here in this room,” said Roe. “Your character and commitment shines through with the experiences you shared.” The veterans at Premera have served in many different countries and accumulated, well-deserved, service medals.
Together, Premera veterans served a total of 633 years.
“America is safer because of you,” Roe said.
Bo Jungmayer is in the Corporate Communications Department at Premera Blue Cross. He focuses on visual storytelling for the company. You can follow him on Twitter at @njung23