The Depot

10 Military Gifts for Veterans and Active Duty Soldiers

Gifts for the people in our lives are hard to buy. Sure, your friend may like Mexican food, but is a gift card to her often-visited taco stand, a good gift? You could drive in the safe lane and get them something like gift cards to businesses they normally patronize, or you could go with the mother-of-all generic gifts; a Visa or Mastercard gift card that they can use anywhere.

Gift givers might think that they will run into unique challenges when they are gift shopping for veterans or active military personnel. But veterans, active duty and Guard and reserve personnel, aren’t really difficult to shop for with a little thought. Their adventurous, on-the-go lifestyle can offer a wide array of choices for military gifts.

To help you pick great military gifts for that special military person or veteran in your life, we’ve created our top 10 military gifts guide, with items listed in no particular order, to help find a great gift for someone who is celebrating a birthday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Christmas—you name it.

10 Military Gifts

1.Knife
No matter the military occupational specialty, a knife or multipurpose tool is a must-have item for any service member or veteran. These days mostly everyone in every branch does time in the field training and even though the war on terror has drawn down, troops still continue to deploy.

A knife of a multipurpose tool is one of the great military gifts because of its wide applicability. It can not only be used on duty, but also for fishing, hunting, camping or even as an emergency tool in their vehicle.

2. Battle Mug
The military culture loves its coffee and there is no better way to drink a steaming hot cup of joe than in a Battle Mug. The Battle Mug is machined from a 10.5 pound solid bar of 6061 T6 billet aluminum into a 2 pound sculpted American made work of art.

The Battle Mug’s Picatinny rails allow optional handles, one of which can be fitted with an optional lid, and other tactical gear to be attached. Battle Mug features a M1913 Picatinny 3-rail interface system which allows the operator to mount a standard issue M4 carry handle, tactical light, laser device, holographic sight, or any tactical device imaginable for your operations. Why not? This is one of those sturdy military gifts that a person can use for the rest of their lives and hand down as a family memento.

3. Service Pride Clothing
Whether your gift recipient served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Space Force or Coast Guard, there are tons of wearable military gifts that allow them to show their service pride, everything from hats to hoodies.

The key here is to ensure you are buying the right size. Hats can be easy if you look for one-size-fits-most, adjustable hats. Shirts and hoodies can be a little trickier, but there are ample ways to learn a person’s size without them knowing what you are up to.



4. Shadow Boxes or Display Cases
Most military personnel and veterans are pretty humble and likely have their military medals and badges tucked away in a box somewhere. Shadow boxes and display cases make great military gifts because they allow the service member or veteran to organize and display their military awards and decorations.

Even if they insist that they won’t mount them up on the wall, these military gifts are a great choice because they enable the person to at the very least organize their military awards and mementos into an appropriate storage container that can become a part of a family’s heirlooms.

5. Field Gear
Much like knives, field gear makes great military gifts because of its diverse applicability. Equipment can be used while out in the field during training, but off duty it can also be used while hiking, camping, fishing and hunting.

Items like hydration backpacks, compasses, ponchos, meal kits, binoculars, and tactical backpacks make terrific military gifts for someone who is active and loves the outdoors.

6. Tactical Gear
Along those lines, if you have an avid rifle and gun sports enthusiast you are shopping for, tactical gear can make great military gifts.

They key is to ensure you know what you are shopping for. Makes no sense to buy someone a holster when they don’t own a pistol, so get informed before you go shopping, especially when you are talking about firearm accessories.

Things like holsters and slings can be pretty specific to the model of weapon owned, so maybe it is safer to purchase something like targets, eyewear or even ear protection.


7. Gifts for the Home Office
With many Americans working from home these days a lot of investment has gone into improving home offices. If you have a veteran in your life with a home office, there are a lot of military gifts that can make their home offices have a nice touch of military culture.

Lamps, paperweights, posters, and drinkware can all bring a nice service pride touch into any home office, as can custom plaques.

8. Golf Gifts
There are a lot of military bases and many of these installations have golf courses. Odds are pretty good that the person you are shopping for is either an avid golfer or likes to hack at a ball every few months.

That’s what makes golf gifts one of the best military gifts. Balls stamped with unit insignias, golf attire, and golf towels are all great military gifts.

9. Gamer Gifts
Got a gamer in your life that you’re looking to give a gift to? USAMM has some great controller wraps in just about every camo pattern and design you can think of. These durable covers are easy to put on most controllers and they make great military gifts.

The snarling tooth wrap, reminiscent of an A-10, is a staff favorite.

10. Gift Cards
If all else fails, and you can’t find a gift that you’re 100 percent jazzed up about, consider a gift card that will allow your military loved one to pick whatever military gifts they want.

If they are still on active, Guard or reserve duty, they can possibly purchase themselves a much needed uniform item, like a new ribbon rack, or maybe they can use it to get themselves some service pride stickers for their car or truck.

The most important thing to remember is that you actually remembered to get that special military person in your life a gift and no matter what you purchase, it is sure to make them happy.

Navy Combat Action Ribbon: A History and Overview

Navy Combat Action Ribbon History
The Combat Action Ribbon is an award for Navy and Marine Corps personnel who render satisfactory performance under enemy fire while actively participating in a ground or surface engagement. The ribbon is also presented to Coast Guard members who are mobilized under U.S. Navy control.

Created in February 1969, it was originally retroactive to March 1, 1961 to personnel who met the requirements. However, the eligibility was changed to include participants of Word War II. Personnel dating back to December 7th, 1941 can be eligible for the award.

Navy Combat Action Ribbon Eligibility
The Navy Combat Action Ribbon is awarded to members of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard (when the Coast Guard, or units thereof, operate under the control of the Navy) in the grade of captain/colonel and junior thereto, who have actively participated in ground or surface combat.

The principal eligibility criterion is, regardless of military occupational specialty or rating, the individual must have rendered satisfactory performance under enemy fire while actively participating in a ground or surface engagement. Neither service in a combat area nor being awarded the Purple Heart Medal automatically makes a service member eligible for the Combat Action Ribbon.

In 2006, the secretary of the Navy added additional guidance in establishing eligibility. Personnel with direct exposure to the detonation of an improvised explosive device (IED) used by an enemy, with or without the immediate presence of enemy forces, constitutes active participation in a ground or surface engagement. Eligibility under this criterion is retroactive to Oct. 7, 2001.

Personnel who serve in clandestine or special operations, who by the nature of their mission, are restricted in their ability to return fire, and who are operating in conditions where the risk of enemy fire was great and expected to be encountered, may be eligible for the Combat Action Ribbon.

The Combat Action Ribbon will not be awarded to personnel for aerial combat, since the Air Medal provides recognition for aerial combat exposure; however, a pilot or crewmember forced to escape or evade, after being forced down, may be eligible for the award.

Current U.S. Navy personnel who were formerly in the U.S. Army and earned the Combat Infantryman Badge or Combat Medical Badge, upon submission of official military documentation to their commanding officer, may be authorized to wear the Combat Action Badge.

Award of the Combat Action Ribbon
Only one award of the Combat Action Ribbon is authorized per operation. Additional awards of the Combat Action Ribbon are represented by wearing a gold or silver, 5/16th inch stars on the service ribbon.

Other branches of services outside of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard are not eligible to receive the Combat Action Ribbon.

Award of the Combat Action Ribbon, unlike other personal awards, is not subject to time limits.

Additional Eligibility for the Combat Action Ribbon
In addition to those eligible from 1941 to a date to be determined, the following criteria also apply:

  • Personnel in riverine and coastal operations, assaults, patrols, sweeps, ambushes, convoys, amphibious landings, and similar activities who have participated in firefights are eligible.
  • Personnel assigned to areas subjected to sustained mortar, missile, and artillery attacks who actively participate in retaliatory or offensive actions are eligible.
  • Personnel aboard a ship are eligible when the safety of the ship and the crew was endangered by enemy attack, such as a ship hit by a mine or a ship engaged by shore, surface, air, or sub-surface elements.
  • Personnel serving in peacekeeping missions, if not eligible by other criteria, are eligible to receive the award when all of the following criteria are met:
    • The member was subject to hostile, direct fire;
    • Based on the mission and the tactical situation, not returning fire was the best course of action; and
    • The member was in compliance with the rules of engagement and his orders by not returning fire.

Eligible Operations for the Combat Action Ribbon
Check with your Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard chain of command of service specific human resources office for guidance about which operations are considered eligible.

What Are The 3 Types of Medals of Honor? A Guide

The Medal of Honor is the highest decoration awarded by the United States to members of the armed forces for combat valor. It is presented by the president of the United States in the name of Congress. To date, as of Jan. 12, 2022, there have been 3,530 medals awarded in the medal’s 160-year existence.

History
The medal was first authorized in 1861 for sailors and Marines, and then in 1862, soldiers were authorized to receive it. But the medal almost did not come to fruition, rejected in the early years of the Civil War by Army Gen. Winfield Scott, however, the Navy recognized the value of recognizing valor in battle and a public resolution was passed containing a provision for the Navy Medal of Valor which President Abraham Lincoln signed into law on Dec. 21, 1861. The medal would be bestowed to petty officers, seamen, landsmen and Marines who distinguished themselves by their gallantry in war.

About seven months later in 1862, the Army got their own version of the valor award, but the Army called it the Medal of Honor and in 1862 it was approved and signed into law to be awarded to noncommissioned officers and privates who distinguish themselves by gallantry in action. Although it was created for the Civil War, Congress made the Medal of Honor a permanent decoration in 1863.

Types of Medals of Honor
As previously mentioned, the Navy and Army created their Medals of Honor during the Civil War. Today, however, there are three types of Medals of Honor because the Air Force was created in 1947 as a separate branch of service.

The Army Medal of Honor is one of the types of Medals of Honor. The Navy, which awards Medals of Honor to Navy personnel, but also the Marine Corps (a part of the Department of the Navy) and Coast Guard (during federalized active-duty service with the Navy) personnel is one of the other types of Medals of Honor. Lastly, the Air Force is one of the final types of Medals of Honor which for now is also presented to Space Force Guardians.

Army’s Medal of Honor
The Army version of the Medal of Honor has a bust of the Roman goddess Minerva, the helmeted goddess of wisdom and war in the center of the medal. The medal itself is a gold star with the words “United States of America” surrounding Minerva. The star and Minerva are surrounded by laurel leaves, a symbol of victory. Dark green oak leaves highlight the points of strength on the star.

Over the star is a rectangle with the word “Valor” that acts as a perch for an eagle, a national symbol, to sit atop it. A light blue ribbon, a variant of blue, a color representing valor, has 13 stars that represent the 13 original colonies. This is one of three types of Medals of Honor.

The first recipients of the Army Medal of Honor were recognized for their daring acts of bravery deep behind enemy lines in April 1862 when they destroyed enemy bridges and railroad tracks.

Navy’s Medal of Honor
The Navy’s version of the Medal of Honor also uses a star shaped medal, but in the middle of the medal is a full body of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and war, and she is depicted warding off discord clutching snakes. The shield in Minerva’s hand is representative of the United States. The owl perched on Minerva’s helmet is representative of wisdom.

There are 34 stars encircling Minerva. These represent the number of stars on the U.S. flag in 1862 when the medal was created. Clusters of laurel and oak leaves located on each of the star’s five points represent victory and strength. And rather than an eagle holding the medal from the ribbon, the Navy version uses an anchor to hold the medal on the ribbon. It represents the sea services. This is the second of three types of Medals of Honor.

There has been only one U.S. Coast Guard Medal of Honor recipient. He was Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro. Munro earned his Medal of Honor during World War II at Guadalcanal on September 27, 1942 where 500 Marines had been dropped off to establish an inland patrol base, but were at risk of being overrun not long after landing. Hearing that the Marines were under attack by a huge enemy force, Munro volunteered to evacuate the battalion. Munro saved more than 500 men by positioning his boat between Japanese gunfire and the Marines. He also helped ferry Marines back to safety. He was killed in action and his last words were “Did they get off?”

Air Force’s Medal of Honor
The Air Force version of the Medal of Honor has the Statue of Liberty centered in the medal. There are dark green oak clusters located in each of the star’s five points that represent strength and like the Navy’s design, there are 34 stars encircling the Lady Liberty that represent the number of stars on the U.S. Flag in 1862.

The wreath of laurel leaves, a symbol of victory, was carried over from the Army’s Medal of Honor design. The medal’s ribbon is the same as the Army and Navy’s medal, but the lightning bolts at the top of the medal are borrowed from the Air Force’s coat of arms. This is the third of three types of Medals of Honor.

Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker was the first airman to receive the Medal of Honor in 1918. He received it from the U.S. Army (the Air Force did not yet exist) for his heroic actions during World War I as a member of the 94th Aero Squadron where he became an ace with 26 kills. But his Medal of Honor was earned for his actions on September 25, 1918, when he spotted seven enemy aircraft and aggressively shot down two while flying a solo patrol.

The Army has awarded more than 2,400 of its types of Medals of Honor, the most of any branch. More than half of the Army types of Medals of Honor were awarded during the Civil War with 1,522 recipients, including the only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor, Dr. Mary Walker, a Civil War physician recognized for her medical service during the war.

Air Force Commendation Medal: How Is It Awarded?

Almost every branch of service has a commendation medal, the exceptions being the Marine Corps which presents the Navy Commendation Medal since the Marine Corps is a part of the Navy, and the U.S. Space Force which currently uses the Air Force Commendation Medal to recognize Guardians who go above and beyond.

The Air Force, established in 1947, did not have its own commendation medal for more than 10 years until it finally created the Air Force Commendation Medal in 1958.

BACKGROUND
The Air Force Commendation Medal was authorized by the Secretary of the Air Force on March 28, 1958, for award to members of the armed forces of the United States who, while serving in any capacity with the Air Force after March 24, 1958, shall have distinguished themselves by meritorious achievement and service. The degree of merit must be distinctive, though it need not be unique. Acts of courage which do not involve the voluntary risk of life required for the Airman's Medal may be considered for the Air Force Commendation Medal.

MEDAL DESCRIPTION
The Air Force Commendation Medal is a bronze hexagon, with one point up, centered upon which is the seal of the Air Force, an eagle with wings spread, facing left and perched upon a baton. There are clouds in the background. Below the seal is a shield bearing a pair of flyer's wings and a vertical baton with an eagle’s claw at either end; behind the shield are eight lightning bolts.

AUTHORIZED DEVICES
Oak Leaf Cluster, Combat “C”, Remote “R” and Valor “V” Devices are all authorized devices for the Air Force Commendation Medal.

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA FOR COMBAT “C” DEVICE
The “C” device was established to distinguish an award (like the Air Force Commendation Medal) earned for exceptionally meritorious service or achievement performed under combat conditions on or after Jan. 7, 2016 (this is not retroactive prior to this date).

The device is only authorized if the service or achievement was performed while the service member was personally exposed to hostile action or under significant risk of hostile action:

  • While engaged in action against an enemy of the United States
  • While engaged in military ops involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
  • While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party

The use of the “C” device is determined solely on the specific circumstances under which the service or achievement was performed. The award is not determined by geographic location. The fact the service was performed in a combat zone, a combat zone tax exclusion area, or an area designated for imminent danger pay, hardship duty pay, or hostile fire pay is not sufficient to qualify for the “C” device. The service member must have been personally exposed to hostile action or under significant risk of hostile action.  

Rank/Grade will not be a factor in determining whether the “C” device is warranted, nor will any quotas, official or unofficial, be established limiting the number of “C” devices authorized for a given combat engagement, a given operation, or cumulatively within a given expanse of area or time. 

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA FOR REMOTE “R” DEVICE
The “R” device was established to distinguish an award earned for direct hands-on employment of a weapon system that had a direct and immediate impact on a combat operation or other military operation, for example, the outcome of an engagement or specific effects on a target. Other military operations include Title 10, U.S. Code, support of non-Title 10 operations, and operations authorized by an approved execute order. 

The action must have been performed through any domain and in circumstances that did not expose the individual to personal hostile action, or place him or her at significant risk of personal exposure to hostile action:

  • While engaged in military operations against an enemy of the United States; or
  • While engaged in military ops involving conflict against an opposing foreign force; or
  • While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in military operations with an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party
The “R” device may be awarded to Airmen who, during the period of the act, served in the remotely piloted aircraft; cyber; space; or Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance career fields on or after Jan. 7, 2016 (this is not retroactive prior to this date).

The "R" device is only authorized for a specific achievement (impact awards) and will not be authorized for sustained performance or service (end-of-tour, separation or retirement decorations)

The “R” device recognizes direct and immediate impact and shall be based on the merit of the individual's actions, the basic criteria of the decoration, and the “R” device criteria.

Performance of a normal duty or accumulation of minor acts will not justify the “R” device. The act must have been: performed in a manner significantly above that normally expected and sufficient to distinguish the individual above members performing similar acts.

A decoration should only be recommended in cases where the event clearly merits special recognition of the action (achieving a strategic objective or saving of lives on the ground).

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA FOR VALOR “V” DEVICE
The “V” device is worn on decorations to denote valor, an act or acts of heroism by an individual above what is normally expected while engaged in direct combat with an enemy of the United States, or an opposing foreign or armed force, with exposure to enemy hostilities and personal risk.

Effective Jan. 7, 2016, the “V” device is authorized on the Air Force Commendation Medal. 

The Air Force Commendation Medal has a weighted airman promoted system point value of three.

 The Air Force Commendation Medal is ordinarily managed by the awards and decorations section of the human resources team. It can be submitted by any supervisor or nominator through personnel systems.

The Air Force Commendation Medal can be approved by a colonel (O-6) or higher and the Air Force Commendation Medal can be presented to members of a foreign military service. In all cases, it is never presented to anyone in the rank of colonel or higher.

What Goes On Military Dog Tags? An In-Depth Look

There is no term linked as closely to military service as the term “dog tag.” It is synonymous with the military and for hundreds of years these emblems of sacrifice and service have etched their place into American military culture.

Over the years, much like the uniforms and equipment worn and used by service personnel, dog tags have changed and what goes on military dog tags has also changed. In order to understand what goes on military dog tags today, we have to understand what information has been placed on them in the past. Like the soldiers who wear them, dog tags have evolved over the years.

Civil War
During the Civil War, some battles had casualties numbering in the thousands and soldiers became afraid that they would not be identified if they were killed in action. They wanted to be properly identified and buried in a marked grave if they died, so naturally, military ingenuity kicked in and soldiers devised ways to be identified if they were killed.

What goes on military dog tags during the Civil War? That’s a hard question to answer since there was no uniformity, but back then primarily soldiers stitched their names into their uniforms while others pinned pieces of paper to themselves. Many more used coins or other bits of metals and some men carved their names into chunks of wood strung around their necks. Soldiers with financial resources purchased engraved metals tags from vendors who followed the armies during the war.

When the Civil War ended, more than 40 percent of the Union Army’s dead were unidentified, according to the U.S. Defense Department. The soldiers’ concerns were validated and the use of dog tags on the battlefield took root in military history.

Early 1900s
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the first official request to issue service members with dog tags was in 1899 at the end of the Spanish-American war. U.S. Army Chaplain Charles C. Pierce, who was in charge of the Army Morgue and Office of Identification in the Philippines, recommended that all soldiers be issued circular disks to identify those who were severely injured or killed in action. 

By 1906, the Army required that dog tags be worn by soldiers and thus the Army ushered in a new chapter in military dog tags history. But what goes on military dog tags in the 1900s? The dog tags were stamped with a soldier's name, rank, company and regiment or corps. The tags were worn around the neck with the field uniform, secured by a chain or cord.

Ten years later, the original dog tag order was modified and a second identical disc was required to be worn. The first dog tag would remain with the body of the fallen soldier, while the second was for burial service record keeping.

In 1917, when the U.S. Navy required all their sailors wear dog tags, the War Department finally mandated that all American combat troops have dog tags. Certainly, back then military leaders were asking themselves, “what goes on military dog tags?” So, they decided the tags included the service member’s name, serial number and religious denomination to help with the disposition of remains. The Army, Navy and Marine Corps all had their own variety of dog tags.

World War II and Korean War
Some believe that the term dog tag was a nickname that World War II military draftees called the tin tags because the draftees joked that they were treated like dogs. Another military rumor is that they looked like tags on a dog’s collar. But while the term “dog tag” seems to have caught on around World War II, the concept of identifying soldiers originated long before World War II.

During World War II, dog tags did not change much and they became part of the uniform evolving into the size and shape they are today. What goes on military dog tags from the World War II era? The tags were engraved with the name, rank, service number, blood type and religious preference. The name and address of next of kin was also included, as well as immunization information, but that information eventually was removed from dog tags after the war. That’s a lot of information in a little space.

Vietnam and beyond
Dog tags for decades had notches on them. Despite the untrue reasoning for this notch covered in a previous Depot Blog post, the notches existed because of the type of machine used to create them and by the 1970s, those machines became obsolete and the notched dog tags assumed their rightful place in history. What goes on military dog tags from the Vietnam Era? The usual; name, serial number, blood type and religious denomination.

Today, dog tags continue to be issued and they are an important part of battlefield identification. Dog tags at some point transitioned from using serial numbers to social security numbers, and that lasted more than 40 years until 2015 when the services began to remove social security numbers over privacy concerns.

What goes on military dog tags today? Name, blood type, religious denomination, but some still have social security numbers on them. While what goes on military dog tags is the same across the service branches, the information is placed in different order depending on the service branch.

Conclusion
Dog tags were developed at a time when American warfighters desired to be properly identified should they fall in battle. They wanted their ultimate sacrifice to be known. That same purpose has carried on for decades, ensuring the proper and dignified processing of American fallen warriors.

Today, with advancements in DNA science and technology, what goes on military dog tags seems less important, but dog tags are still as much of military culture as they have ever been.

Military Flag Folding: A How-To Guide

The U.S. flag has meaning for the men and women of the U.S. military. It is flown over military installations and naval ships domestically and abroad. The flag is worn on U.S. military uniforms and it is draped over the caskets of military veterans who served honorably.

Like other things in the military, there is a lot of folklore surrounding military flag folding. When a U.S. flag is stored or presented to a veteran’s next of kin, there is a belief that the 13 folds represent the original 13 colonies. Unfortunately, this military flag folding belief is more legend than it is fact.

In fact, Title 4, U.S. Code, the legal framework that governs how to display the flag, amongst other things, makes no mention of how the flag is to be folded, much less how many folds there should be and what each fold represents. But proper military flag folding includes 13 folds and while some individuals exercise a little latitude in regards to flag folding, the romanticized meanings of each fold add color and richness to the event, and certainly don’t tarnish the flag in anyway.

Another military flag folding myth is that the triangular-shaped U.S. flag is folded intentionally in such a way so that it that resembles the tri-pointed hat commonly worn by patriots of the American Revolution. Again, Title 4, U.S.C. makes no mention of this historical reference, nor does the code require the flag to be folded accordingly into a triangle.

It should also be noted that the military flag folding etiquette that is such a large part of U.S. military culture is not enforceable although it is codified. Meaning, there is no U.S. law that stipulates that an American flag has to be folded according to military flag folding customs. Military personnel respect the flag and treat it accordingly, following the customs and courtesies of military flag folding etiquette, but many are surprised to learn that there is nothing in federal law that outlines how the flag is to be folded.

One thing that is true is that a person cannot fold a flag alone. Sure, a person can lay it flat on a flat surface (not the ground) and make the traditional folds, but there is more reverence to the flag if it is folded by a military flag folding team. You cannot fold a flag by yourself. There needs to be at least one other person folding with you.



There are several steps to military flag folding.

First, hold the flag around waist height with another person directly across from you and stretch it tautly. The flag should be parallel to the floor.

The next step in military flag folding is to lengthwise fold the bottom half of the flag (the portion of the flag with stripes). The stripes will fold over and cover the blue field of stars.

The third step in military flag folding is to lengthwise fold the flag again. The blue field of the flag should now be visible.

Fourth, fold the stripes corner from the edge to the top flying edge of the flag (towards the blue field). Make a triangle fold.

Continue the military flag folding by making a second fold in the shape of a triangle. Take the pointed end of the flag and fold it inward and then keep folding in triangle folds all the way until you reach the blue field.

The last step of military flag folding is to ensure the blue field is visible on all sides of the triangle. Red and white portions of the flag should be covered by the blue, starred field and neatly tucked into the flag itself so only the blue field and its white stars are visible.

Flags destined for memorial flag cases or shadow boxes are folded in the same, respectful manner described above.

The one thing to remember is that the flag represents a vibrant, robust country and it is the personification of every American. Treat it with dignity and respect.

5 Best Tactical Backpacks: The Ultimate Guide

Tactical backpacks are uniquely personal things and what you purchase is based on what you need. Some people need tactical backpacks that have a lot of storage space while others might need compartmentalized storage.

For a trekker, a large pocket for a fluid bladder might be essential. Others might find modularity more to their liking.

To help you decide what to get, USAMM has created our top five best tactical backpack list. The packs are not listed in any particular order which means that just because a pack is listed as number one in our best tactical backpack list, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best tactical backpack on our list.

The 3-Day Op Pack
This tactical backpack is number one on our best tactical backpack list. The tru-spec multi-came three-day assault pack is fully compatible with the M.O.L.L.E. system and compatible with a hydration system.

It is made of Denier nylon and has fully padded shoulder and waist straps as well as an adjustable sternum strap. It also includes hook-and-loop strips for tapes for name and rank.

Alice Pack with Frame
This tactical backpack is number two on our best tactical backpack list. This old reliable has been issued in the U.S. military for decades and while they are available in different sizes, the large is the best one to get.

It includes a frame with kidney pads and shoulder straps. This one comes in two colors, green and tan. It has great large pockets on the outside for ready access to gear when you need it.

Tactical Tailor Multi-Cam Fight Light Modular Operator Pack
This tactical backpack is number three on our best tactical backpack list. The Modular Operator Pack is the mid-level, three-day pack style entry in our Operator line of packs. Comparable in size to a regular three-day pack, but with many more features than you would find in the competition's packs. For storage, you will find a large main compartment, with reinforced bottom for durability as well as a medium sized front pocket with accessory pocket and key keeper.

A large hydration pocket fits a three-liter hydration bladder and includes covered ports to route a drinking hose. The outside is covered with modular webbing on the front, sides and bottom for attaching pouches as well as loop fastener for attaching patches and nametapes. Padded back and contoured shoulder straps are lined with air mesh for comfort. Side compression straps, large drag handle, heavy duty zippers, sternum strap and removable waist belt round out this already impressive pack.



Fight Light Multi-Cam (OCP) Removeable Operator Pack
This tactical backpack is number four on our best tactical backpack list. The Removable Operator Pack in our Operator Series of packs is designed as a ‘Quick Attach Assault Pack’ to attach directly to modular vests or larger packs. The pack features a large main compartment as well as a side entry front pocket. The outside has modular webbing for attaching additional pouches and padded shoulder straps stow away when not in use.

This pack includes heavy duty zippers, sternum strap, grab handle, loop material for patches and three-liter hydration pocket. All hardware needed to attach the pack to other gear is also included. This pack makes a great addition to our Extended Range Operator Pack, attach it to military issue vests or use it alone as a small day pack.

Tactical Tailor Fight Light Coyote Tan Modular Operator Pack
This tactical backpack is number five on our best tactical backpack list. The Modular Operator Pack is the midlevel three-day pack style entry in our Operator line of packs. Comparable in size to a regular three-day pack, but with many more features than you would find in the competition’s packs. For storage, you will find a large main compartment, with high visibility lining and double reinforced bottom for durability as well as a medium sized front pocket with accessory pocket and key keeper.

A large hydration pocket fits a three-liter hydration bladder and includes covered ports to route a drinking hose. The outside is covered with modular webbing on the front, sides and bottom for attaching pouches as well as loop fastener for attaching patches and nametapes. Padded back and contoured shoulder straps are lined with air mesh for comfort. Side compression straps, large drag handle, heavy duty zippers, sternum strap and removable waist belt round out this already impressive pack.

Tactical backpacks can be used as part of your military duties if you’re infantry, military police, aircrew, armor, public affairs and just about any military occupational specialty. The best tactical backpack for you is easily determined by what you need to bring to work and the rigors of what your job will throw at you and the backpack.

But tactical backpacks can also be used off duty for hiking, fishing, camping, sports and even to haul your books if you’re attending college or vocational classes. The best tactical backpack should fit your life completely.

Honor The Hero in Your Life: 3 Military Shadow Box Ideas

If have a loved one who is a member of the military, there are a lot of military shadow box ideas that you should consider. Of course, much depends on whether they are active duty or in the Guard or reserve, but starting a military shadow box is a good idea to help them preserve the military mementos that they’ve earned.

If they’re on active duty and they plan on making the military a career, consider buying a larger shadow box to accommodate the many medals, ribbons, badges, coins and other items they will likely receive over the course of 20 plus years. A larger box allows them to add items to the shadow box as they earn things and over the years a once empty shadow box is sure to fill.

If you're loved one is a member of the Guard and reserve, there are lots of military shadow box ideas that can be employed to help them preserve their military medals and ribbons. Like an active-duty member, you can purchase a large shadow box for them, but like an active-duty member, this is only recommended if they plan on making the part-time military a career. If so, then a large shadow box is definitely your best bet.

If you’re thinking the military might be a one and done kind of thing for them (one enlistment), whether they are on active duty or in the Guard or reserve, then purchasing a medium shadow box or even a small shadow box might be one of your better military shadow box ideas. As they earn items, they can add them to our shadow box, but smaller boxes will be best since most first-term military members don't rack up a lot of awards and decorations.

Beyond helping preserve the military medals and ribbons of your loved ones, there are a multitude of military shadow box ideas that you can use to not only preserve your friend/family member's military memories, but help them display them with pride. Here are three quick military shadow box ideas to consider.

Patches, Ribbons and Badges
The first of the three military shadow box ideas is to get a standard military shadow box for your loved ones patches, ribbons, medals and badges; the stuff usually placed on their military uniform. These are the standard military shadow boxes that most military people have hanging in their offices or homes.

These boxes can be filled with the stripes they wore on their sleeve, the medal they received while overseas, the wings they earned in flight or parachute training, or any other uniform item that they are proud of and want to display. You can purchase the shadow box on its own and then fill it with your loved one's items, or you can have the great folks at USAMM take the guess work out of it and have them build a custom box for you using their custom shadow box builder.

Shadow Boxes with Flags
The second of the three military shadow box ideas is to get a large shadow box that includes a special case for a flag. You can include flags that have a special meaning to your loved one in this shadow box. For example, if they requested a flag be flown over a special building the day they retire from the ranks, or maybe they took a flag with them on deployment that they hold dearly. If you lost a loved one, this is a touching way to display their memorial flag and their awards too.

American, state (for National Guard personnel), unit, service and other types of flags are all great items to showcase for loved ones. Flags can be meaningful symbols to display and they should be included when you are thinking about military shadow box ideas.

Shadow Boxes with Mementos
The third of the three military shadow box ideas is to purchase a large, medium or small shadow box, and fill it with items that were important to your loved one while they served. This type of shadow box goes beyond the traditional medals and uniform items by including things of sentimental value from their military service. Just be careful because many military personnel can be very attached to a particular item. Some still carry challenge coins in their wallets from units they loved and others might hang their dog tags on their car mirrors, or use them on keychains as a proud reminder of their service. It's always best to ask before assuming someone would want something put in a shadow box.

However, some good examples of some of the items that can go into a box like this are a P-38 or P-51 can opener placed in the shadow box from their time as a grunt. Maybe they’re particularly attached to an old silver lighter that has their unit crest on it, or maybe they’re very fond of their dog tags, an MRE spoon, an enemy round they pulled from their hooch's wall, a challenge coin or some other item that is important to them. Out of all the military shadow box ideas mentioned, this one will likely be the most personal shadow box you can build for your hero because it will house important items from their time in the ranks.

To sum it up, when you are considering military shadow box ideas for the hero in your life, ensure those military shadow box ideas conform to their wishes. Unlike the military with its regulations and conformity, military shadow boxes are a deeply personal thing and you can build something to display whatever your hero is most proud of.

GWOT Expeditionary Medal: Who Is Eligible?



GWOT Expeditionary Medal Background
The Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal was established by Executive Order 13289 on March 12, 2003 to recognize service members of the Armed Forces of the United States who have deployed abroad for service in the Global War on Terrorism on or after September 11, 2001 to a date to be determined. The GWOT Expeditionary Medal is only awarded once per named operation, regardless of the number of deployments and periods of service supporting that operation. Effective February 9, 2015 (retroactive to September 11, 2001), separate deployments and periods of service in support of different named operations are recognized by bronze service stars. 

Eligible operations for award of the GWOT Expeditionary Medal include Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Nomad Shadow, New Dawn, Observant Compass, Inherent Resolve, Freedom’s Sentinel, Odyssey Lightning, and Pacific Eagle Philippines. Service members should check their service branch human resources office for specific qualifying dates.

The military department is the award approval authority. For designated military operations and associated areas approved for award of the GWOT Expeditionary Medal, each military department will prescribe appropriate regulations for administrative processing, awarding, and wearing of the GWOT Expeditionary Medal, ribbon, and appurtenances, which comply with pertinent laws, executive orders, federal regulations, and the policies and procedures outlined by the Department of Defense.

According to the Defense Department, presence in the area of operations alone is not sufficient to justify award of the GWOT Expeditionary Medal; service members must meet the following criteria:

Award Criteria and Eligibility
Service members must have been permanently assigned, attached, or detailed to a unit that participated, on or after September 11, 2001 in a designated GWOT Expeditionary Medal operation in the specified area of operations, for that operation, for 30 consecutive days or 60 non-consecutive days, or meet one of the following criteria, regardless of time spent in the area of operations:

a. Was engaged in actual combat against the enemy and under circumstances involving grave danger of death or serious bodily injury from enemy action.
b. While participating in the designated operation was killed, or was wounded or injured and medically evacuated from the area of operations.
c. Service members participating as a regularly assigned aircrew member flying sorties into, out of, within, or over the area of operations in direct support of the GWOT Expeditionary Medal designated operation are eligible for the GWOT Expeditionary Medal. Each day that one or more sorties are flown in accordance with these criteria will count as 1 day toward the 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive day requirement.

Service members must have deployed abroad for a designated GWOT Expeditionary Medal approved operation to a designated area of operation, for that operation.

The military service of the service member on which qualification for the award of the GWOT Expeditionary Medal is based must have been honorable.

Service members will only be awarded one GWOT Expeditionary Medal for each designated military operation, regardless of the number of deployments and periods of service supporting the operation. Service members may receive a subsequent award for each designated operation provided award criteria for each operation was achieved on separate deployments and periods of service.

Under no condition will units or personnel within the United States be deemed eligible for the GWOT Expeditionary Medal.

Subsequent Awards
Individuals are only presented a GWOT Expeditionary Medal upon initial award. Subsequent awards are denoted by wearing a bronze service star on the GWOT Expeditionary Medal. A silver service star is worn in lieu of five bronze service stars.

Authorized Devices
The following devices are authorized for wear:
1. A service star, bronze or silver five-pointed star, 3/16 inch in diameter.
2. Arrowhead device, bronze replica of an arrowhead, 1/4 inch high, that may be
authorized for wear by the Secretary of the Army or the Secretary of the Air Force.
3. FMF Combat Operations Insignia, a miniature bronze Marine Corps emblem that may be authorized by the Secretary of the Navy for U.S. Navy members assigned to Marine Corps units that participate in combat during the assignment.

GWOT Expeditionary Medal and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Service members awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (AFEM) for an operation to combat terrorism between September 11, 2001, and October 28, 2003, in an area for which the GWOT Expeditionary Medal was authorized subsequently remain qualified for the AFEM. Such members, upon application, may be awarded the GWOT Expeditionary Medal in lieu of that AFEM. Such election is irrevocable.

No Service member will be entitled to both medals for the same act, achievement, or period of service (i.e., deployment or tour in the designated operation area).

GWOT Expeditionary Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal (ACM)/Iraq Campaign Medal (ICM)
Service members awarded the GWOT Expeditionary Medal for ACM qualifying service between September 11, 2001, and April 30, 2005, in an area for which the ACM was authorized subsequently remain qualified for that medal. Such members, upon application, may be awarded the ACM in lieu of that GWOT Expeditionary Medal. Such election is irrevocable. No service member will be entitled to both medals for the same act, achievement, or period of service (i.e., deployment or tour in the designated operation area).

Service members awarded the GWOT Expeditionary Medal for ICM qualifying service between March 19, 2003, and April 30, 2005, in an area for which the ICM was authorized subsequently remain qualified for that medal. Such members, upon application, may be awarded the ICM in lieu of that GWOT Expeditionary Medal. Such election is irrevocable. No service member will be entitled to both medals for the same act, achievement, or period of service (i.e., deployment or tour in the designated operation area).

GWOT Expeditionary Medal and the Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal (IRCM)
Service members awarded the GWOT Expeditionary Medal for IRCM qualifying service between June 15, 2014 and March 30, 2016, in an area for which the IRCM was authorized subsequently remain qualified for that medal. Such members, upon application, may be awarded the IRCM in lieu of that GWOT Expeditionary Medal. Such election is irrevocable. No service member will be entitled to both medals for the same act, achievement, or period of service (i.e., deployment or tour in the designated operation area).

GWOT Expeditionary Medal and the GWOT Service Medal (GWOT-SM)
Service members may receive both the GWOT Expeditionary Medal and the
GWOT-SM if they meet the eligibility requirements of both awards. However, the qualifying period of service used to establish eligibility for one award cannot be used to justify eligibility for the other.

Lost Military Dog Tags: 5 Inspiring Stories of Dog Tags Returned Home

Considering that the United States has thousands of military members still accounted for, it should come as no surprise that there are thousands of lost dog tags. Lost dog tags have been found overseas and domestically. And these lost dog tags somehow stir in those that find them an energy that drives them to find the owners or their next of kin. While we can’t explain why people choose to hunt down the homes of these lost dog tags, we can share five great stories of how lost dog tags found their way back where they belong.

World War II
At a Florida flea market, a man came across a set of lost dog tags. The gentleman, a veteran, was angry that someone would be selling the dog tags. The vet tried, unsuccessfully, to have the vendor give him the lost dog tags, so he purchased them and thus began his attempt to home the lost dog tags.

The veteran turned to a non-profit that helps connect people who find dog tags with owners of lost dog tags. The veteran learned that the lost dog tags belonged to Army WWII Veteran, George Kroeger, who was originally from Ohio, but after the war Kroeger and his family moved to Florida.

Sadly, Kroeger passed away in 1986 and his wife and a son both died in 2005. There was no way to determine how his dog tag ended up in a flea market, but some guess that in the shuffle of estates the lost dog tags ended up in the hands of a vendor.

Luckily, the folks at the non-profit found a surviving son of Kroeger and he was presented his father’s dog tags.

Korea
A young boy in Missouri crawled underneath the wrap-around porch of his friend’s house where the two would go and hide. It was under that porch in Cassville, Missouri that the boy would find a lost dog tag that belonged to a Korean War draftee.

The boy grew into a man and kept the lost dog tag for years and as an adult he eventually figured out that the dog tags that he had were likely valuable to someone else. Like others, he reached out to a non-profit for help. 

They researched and discovered that the lost dog tags belonged to Billy Ray Fogg who was drafted into the Army in 1952. Sadly, Fogg was deceased, having died in 1989, but his wife survived and she was reunited with her husband’s dog tags.  

Vietnam
The dog tags of U.S. Army soldier Jackie Dale Walker from Oklahoma made their way home in 2012 after spending decades in the jungle in Southeast Asia. The lost dog tags belonging to Walker, who left behind a mother, father, sisters and brothers when he died in Vietnam in 1968, were returned to his family.

The lost dog tags were presented to his family 44 years after his death. This was made possible because a Wall Street trader was touring the Ho Chi Minh trail in 1998 and he came upon a Vietnamese man who had collected dog tags he had found over the years. He had more than 100 of them and the trader purchased them for $1 each.

Over the years, many more were returned by the trader, but eventually his efforts turned into an organized effort to help return the lost dog tags to their rightful owners.

Cold War
In 2021, a wildland firefighter in Arizona found a set of lost dog tags wrapped around a rear-view mirror, on I-17 just outside of Phoenix. Interestingly, 22 years earlier, a Marine Corps veteran was involved in car accident at that same site.

The Marine’s vehicle went off the road and flipped several times causing the veteran to suffer internal injuries and multiple fractures. A passenger in his car died from injuries sustained in the crash.

The rear-view mirror from the Marine vet’s car was broken off and thrown from the vehicle where they were found, more than 20 years later by the firefighter.

In 2021, the firefighter returned the lost dog tags to the Marine veteran. It turns out the two live close to each other.

Global War on Terror
An employee at an Ohio-based company found a set of lost dog tags in their work space and with some help they tracked down the retired Army National Guard officer who was the rightful owner.

The gentleman served in Iraq as a public affairs officer in 2004 and the tags have since been reunited with him.

If you have come across a set of lost dog tags, please consider reaching out to a veteran service organization. They might be able to direct you to an organization that helps home lost dog tags with their rightful owners or their families.