Promotions and retirements are marked with a ceremony and plenty of military pomp and circumstance. But in addition to all of the official protocols, a thoughtful gift can help show your support to their military career and provide a reminder of their years of service when it is time to retire or transition.
Do a quick online search and you’ll find thousands of vendors offering up some really great promotion or retirement gift ideas. It can be a little overwhelming.
How do you pick the right gift? The one that says “I support and love you” and “I am proud of your accomplishments?”
Here are 10 ideas to inspire you.
The Traditional Black Pen
No soldier’s uniform is complete without a black pen, so they make a perfect gift. Just make sure the barrel isn’t too wide to fit into the pen slot on their uniform and make sure the color is within regulation. Have it engraved with the new rank and date of promotion or total days of service. You might even consider making this gift a tradition with each promotion. That way, you’ll have a whole collection when it comes time to transition or retire.
A Cup of Memories
Coffee, tea, water or beer, pick his or her favorite beverage and make it a promotion gift. Have it personalized to reflect the new rank or a motto that resonates with your spouse.
Books of Interest
Consider a military strategy book or a biography of a military hero as a gift. Make the gift even more special by asking members of the service member’s unit to add a note of encouragement to the inside pages.
Make sure you take photos of the promotion ceremony and consider having professional photos taken with your newly promoted family member. If you are having a post-promotion celebration, make sure you take a group photo and have attendees sign the matting or a card that can be included when the picture is framed.
Tools of the Trade
As service members move up in the ranks, their responsibilities grow. Consider gifts that help them establish their office or help them in the field. Things like a name placard for their desk or a multi-purpose utility tool.
For Military Retirement
The Shadow Box
All of those old unit insignia, rank pins, medals and awards perfectly arranged into a piece of art. Go traditional or something a little more unique, shadow boxes are definitely not one-size-fits-all. Check out these ideas or if you’re feeling up to it, this gift makes for a great DIY project.
Many veterans like to fly flags in front of their homes. With a little advanced planning, you can request a U.S. flag that has been flown over the U.S. Capital. Or consider coordinating with the installation command of a favorite duty station and request a flag flown there.
If your service member is just beginning their career, consider purchasing a flag at your first duty station and have it flown at each one up until retirement! Just make sure you observe proper flag protocols as you take it from place to place. You might also consider a Corp or Branch flag. Check your local exchange or military surplus store to buy your flag.
Words of Wisdom
Ever hear that story about the Dad who bought a copy of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” and had his child’s teacher’s sign it as she was growing up and then gave the book to her at graduation? As service members grow through the ranks, they serve with many leaders. Consider modifying this idea by finding a really great military leadership book and having unit leadership add a note to your service member as they depart each duty station.
Or use social media to reach out to those service members your spouse served with in the past and ask them to send you a card or note, along with a picture, that you can have printed into a bound memory book.
Kind of like a hope chest, memory or keepsake boxes are wooden chests used to house all of the memories of service. You could include a uniform, pictures, awards and all the other bits and pieces that come with a long military career.
A Lasting Impact
Consider donating to a nonprofit organization and purchasing a stone or plaque in your service member’s honor (Check out the Name-A-Seat program at the Pritzker Military Museum). This gift takes a little more research, but if there is a cause or location near and dear to your service member, this might be the perfect way to commemorate their service and give back at the same time.