These days it is rare for people to spend 20 years with an organization. Long ago, an American worker could work for a corporation for decades, retire and receive not only a pension, but a parting gift for their work. Some organizations gave retirees watches or other high-end gifts.
When a service member retires, ordinarily they have a retirement ceremony where they receive their final military medal, a parting gift from their last unit, and away they go. As friends, family, or associates of a retiring military member, it might be a challenge to pinpoint what military retirement gifts are appropriate for someone who is retiring from the ranks of the U.S. military.
How much should a person spend? What is and isn’t appropriate? For those who are inexperienced with the military culture, deciding on which military retirement gifts to purchase can be cloudy. That’s why USAMM is happy to share their list of top 10 military retirement gifts, in no particular order.
Plaques are always on any list of military retirement gifts because they can be customized and they make wonderful additions to any, as they are affectionately nicknamed, ‘I Love Me Walls.’
The key is to ensure that something is purchased that is personal and reflective of the retiree’s military service. With a little homework, the gift giver can determine the retiree’s unit, mission and even their unit logo, patch, or motto.
Many service members are extraordinarily proud of some of the units that they serve in, or the installations or ships they serve on. Retailers like USAMM pride themselves on working with customers to ensure the right military retirement gifts get into the right hands.2. Shadowbox
One of the most popular, if not the most popular of military retirement gifts is a shadowbox. Most military retirees have one hanging on a wall, or maybe they are tucked away in a footlocker somewhere if not hung up on a wall.
These popular military retirement gifts encapsulate everything that a retiree has done during their careers. Shadowboxes presented to retirees usually include their rank, ribbons and medals earned, their rating or occupational badges, qualification badges, and patches and pins that show skillsets.
3. Coin Display Case
Military challenge coins over the past two decades have exploded in popularity. It seems everyone has a coin, even at the lowest level of leadership, and they are given out regularly.
For a person who has put in 20 plus years in uniform, that can add up to a lot of challenge coins. That’s why challenge coin display cases make great military retirement gifts.
These cases come in a variety of styles, sizes, and wood selections. Some can accommodate just a fistful of coins while others can hold dozens.
4. Flag Case
Sometimes at retirement ceremonies, a retiring service member might be presented a U.S., state, unit, or some other flag associated with his or her military service. Flag cases are nice military retirement gifts because they enable the retiree to preserve and display whatever flag they were given at their retirement.
Some flag cases like the ones at USAMM, enable to purchaser to customize the case with a custom nameplate. To really make things special, the gift giver can request a flag be flown over the U.S. Capitol or at a special location known to the retiree. Either way, with or without a flag included, flag cases are great military retirement gifts.
Sounds too easy to be true but getting a military retiree a military retiree hat as one of their military retirement gifts is a win. These widely popular hats are a common sight at veteran service organizations, parades and on veteran specific holidays like Veterans and Memorial Day.
These make useful military retirement gifts because retirees wear them like a badge of honor. And justifiably so, they’ve earned them.
Some hats, like USAMM's Navy ship hats, can be customized.
Not everyone is a hat person. Some men and women do not like hats. That makes shirts a super choice for military retirement gifts.
Custom shirts are fantastic military retirement gifts and can include a retiree’s previous or last unit logo and motto. There are several choices ranging from t-shirts to polo golf shirts.
These are great because it enables the retiree to stay connected to his or her old unit.
7. Car Accessories
There are nice car accessories out there that make terrific military retirement gifts. These gifts are a way for the retiree to show their service pride and tell those around them who they are and what they’ve done.
Simple things like license plate frames, decals, sticky military ribbon racks, and interior and exterior accessories are amazing military retirement gifts. These gifts are a thoughtful, yet simple way to recognize those who have served for so long.
8. Office Décor
Some retirees have second careers after their military retirement while others might take their military retirement gifts and decorate their dens, home offices, garages, workshops, or RVs. Whatever their plans, military retirees would welcome office and home décor as military retirement gifts.
9. Medal or Ribbon Rack
Medal and ribbon racks grow for a military member as they serve, but once they retire, they are unlikely to ever earn another award. Giving the gift of a final medal or ribbon rack is a fantastic way to honor a military retiree.
For those who have served in the National Guard, there are special state ribbons that are included in their ribbon racks. USAMM specializes in ensuring state medals and ribbons are in stock to ensure retiring National Guard personnel have what they need as they retire.
A person needn’t drink to appreciate some high-quality drinkware as one of their military retirement gifts. Although designed to store and consume alcoholic beverages, there is nothing preventing a retiree from using these great military retirement gifts as everyday decanters and glasses. Some of these gifts can be customized while others come adorned with the branches of service.
A lot of drinkware gifts can be used to keep coffee hot or beverages cold too.
But if they do drink, there is no better occasion to toast than a retirement after decades of service to the nation.
Most military retirements are scheduled months in advance because there are so many moving parts when a retiree is finally leaving the service. The good news for gift givers is that it gives them plenty of time to plan accordingly and order custom gifts.
These gifts ordinarily take longer than straight off the shelf gifts, but they are worth it. But remember, because of manpower issues, shipping delays and supply-chain shortages, a custom order can take a little longer than expected, so it is always wise to check in with your retailer before you order. In most case, a person will have plenty of time to place an order for a retirement ceremony or by a retirement date.
Retiring from military service is a huge accomplishment. Military service members can live a hard life and those who have served in the past 20 years in the Global War on Terrorism endured numerous deployments and steady time away from their families. They have made many sacrifices for the country and deserve a gift worthy of their service.
One gift will likely be unable to capture the breadth of a retiree’s military service, but many gifts can be fitting and come closely to representing the many days, months, and years a person spent in uniform, stateside and overseas. With a little thought, and research, a military retiree can receive a solid military retirement gift that causes him or her to reflect on a life of service, well-lived.