So, the time has come: Your loved one is leaving their military branch and entering retirement. Whether they served in the Marine Corps, National Guard, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force or the Space Force, congratulations are in order for all their hard work and dedication.
If they’re like most military members, your soon-to-be veteran is not one to toot their own horn or seek a pat on the back; they enlisted simply because they felt it was the right thing to do. But with just 19 million veterans in the country – or less than 10% of all adults in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center – their courage and sacrifice can be difficult to find. As such, military retirement is no ordinary event: It’s one deserving of recognition and commendation. This should include a retirement gift.
But what do you give to someone who has given so much? Should it be an actual gift that comes wrapped in a bow? Or is an experience-type present the best gift?
This article will help to inspire thoughts on perfect gift ideas for your retiring soldier, guardian, marine, airman, guardsman or sailor. While you may want to splurge given the uniqueness of military retirement, the perfect gift doesn’t have to be expensive to be meaningful.
1. The stars and stripes
There is so much symbolism and significance that derives from the American flag. From the “Star Spangled Banner” anthem the flag inspired, to what the stars and stripes are meant to represent, Old Glory is not just a flag, it’s a patchwork of history. As such, you may want to consider purchasing an American flag that they can use as a memento, whether they raise it daily, fold it and store it or have it framed. If you choose the latter, consider a personalized flag case, particularly if it’s a flag that has some significance to their time in the service or in combat.
2. Military retirement plaque
Your loved one has seen their last name emblazoned on their fatigues since their first day of boot camp, but their full name takes on added resonance when it’s embossed on a beautiful plaque.
Plaques come in a variety of materials and are typically sold in big-box retailers as well as arts and crafts boutiques. That same store may also offer inscription services, so you can have the plaque personalized with their name, rank, branch, years of service and any additional verbiage that will mean something significant and make it a more unique gift.
3. Custom engraved wood art
If you don’t want to verbally salute your prospective veteran or military retiree on a plaque, you could also do so on some wood.
Wooden decor is a very popular item; you’ve probably seen them advertised on social media channels or perhaps have something similar in your home already. Embossing wooden pieces with your service member’s name and rank is a slightly less formal way of honoring their retirement.
These don’t have to be used for decoration, though. You may also choose to purchase something that they can use in the kitchen, such as a cutting board or pizza paddle.
4. Shot glass or beer mug set
Does your military vet or soldier fashion themselves something of a wine connoisseur? Are they partial to a particular type of liquor, like whiskey or bourbon? Whatever their beverage of preference, there are a variety of bar gift sets that you can personalize with their name, flag, military branch logo or any combination of etchings.
5. Military-themed blanket, quilt or afghan
Like veterans, there aren’t as many people around these days who know how to knit – never mind quilt or crochet. But if this is a pastime of yours – or you’ve always wanted to learn – let your loved one’s storied military career be your inspiration for your first (or next) creation. Everyone needs some warmth and comfort when they’re relaxing on the couch or heading to bed. A quilt or afghan serves as just the thing. Websites like Etsy, Pinterest or the blog Quilt Inspiration have some patterns that you can download – usually for free.
6. Army or Navy Chess set
Chess is a game for thinkers and strategizers; and in the military, you have to be both. Even if a chess set is the last thing your loved one would expect as a retirement gift, this may be a good gift idea to get them hooked on an all-time classic board game.
Some feature the Army vs. Navy, while others recall the Revolutionary War, where the Washingtons double for the king and queen (George Washington his wife Martha) and the bishops are represented by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
7. Wristwatch, pocket watch or decorative clock
Even though it may keep time, from a gift-giving perspective, a watch or clock is timeless. An online search (e.g. Army watch, Navy watch, Space Force clock, etc.) can give you some gift ideas. There are some watchmakers that specialize in tactical timepieces, which are used by special forces in the Navy, Marines and Army.
8. Model aircraft or ship
Whether by air, land or sea, the military serve on all fronts. If your retirement-entering service member spent their time in the bowels of the sea on a submarine or cruising at high altitude in a state-of-the-art fighter jet, a scale model of that vehicle is a great way to memorialize their days as a submariner or pilot. From the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird or historic submarines – like the Michigan or the Ohio – models come preassembled or as build-your-own. You could even opt for a model rocket or missile for Space Force guardians.
Cufflinks are the essence of class. In a French-cut shirt, a pair of cufflinks can add some flair and a sense of debonaire to semi-formal or black-tie events. You may know of a retailer that sells a variety of cufflinks, but if not, using Google, Duck Duck Go or Bing can produce fruitful results for “Air Force cufflinks,” “Coast Guard cufflinks” and all the other service branches.
10. Trip to a memorial or historic battlefield
Sometimes, the truly best gifts you don’t bring to the receiver; you bring the receiver to the gift. And that gift could be visiting somewhere special or that holds sentimental significance.
As LinkedIn reports, citing a Harris Group poll and a San Francisco State University study, experiences are often preferred to tangible gifts or items they buy themselves. This is particularly true of millennials, with nearly three-quarters saying they opt for experiences over purchased items when given the choice. Additionally, researchers from SFSU’s Department of Psychology found people consider trips and events to be a better use of their money and derive a greater sense of satisfaction from these types of purchases.
The places you could visit that are relevant to their military background are as wide-ranging as the world is large. Whether it’s somewhere overseas (like Utah Beach in Normandy, France) or a memorial closer to home that they haven’t yet visited (like the Military Women’s Memorial in Arlington, Virginia) the experience itself can serve as a military retirement gift they’ll cherish forever.
Before you book your trip, you may want to check the destination’s website to see if there are any restrictions in place due to COVID-19. For example, the Military Women’s Memorial is closed to the public but is expected to reopen to visitors starting in June 2022.
Planning a retirement party? Keep a few things in mind
Your retirement gift will be immensely appreciated regardless of what you pick or how you deliver it, but you may want to make their retirement extra special with a gathering or party. Holding one serves as an opportunity for their military family – those who are still on active duty or also now a veteran – to pay tribute to them. If so, here are a few tips to be mindful of as you prepare:
- Book a room or banquet hall well in advance to get the best possible price -the earlier the better.
- Try to keep the guests to no more than 12 to 15 people to keep the event simple and affordable.
- Ask your family member who’d they’d like to invite to avoid awkward interactions.
- Send out invitations several months prior to the party or invite via email.
- For simplicity, aim for basic refreshments, such as fruit salad, sandwiches, cold cuts, tossed salad or baked goods. You may want to have guests bring something to keep food costs down.
Retirement comes with a lot of perks and one of them is full access to a loan provider that specializes in exclusively serving the military active-duty and career-retired community – as well as their spouses. If you need a loan for any reason a military loan from Omni Financial is just a click or call away. Contact us today to learn more or visit an office at a base near you.
The information provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only. Omni Financial does not endorse, recommend or imply affiliation with the listed companies or organizations. It should not be considered legal or financial advice. You should consult with a financial professional to determine what may be best for your individual needs.