12 Last-Minute or DIY Veterans Day Gift Ideas

Updated

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Veterans do a lot for the rest of us. Many have literally put their lives on the line to serve their country. It may seem like no gift can really express enough gratitude. But on Veterans Day, a gift is a great way to say “thank you for your service.” 

Jump ahead to these sections:

First, though, it’s important to talk about why Veterans Day is the best occasion to give a special gift to a veteran. Many people believe that Memorial Day is also a day when you should pay tribute to veterans.

After all, a lot of people celebrate the holiday with cookouts, and many stores have Memorial Day sales. But Memorial Day is specifically intended to honor people who have died while in service to their country. It’s not an occasion to fete living veterans. Veterans Day though is a great opportunity to celebrate vets with a gift. Read on for ideas on gifts for veterans that are thoughtful but also accessible for all. 

Veterans Day Gift Ideas for a Partner or Spouse

A good partner will protect you and lift you up in life. A partner who was a veteran serves their country in a similar way. Here are some thoughtful gifts for a veteran or soldier that also happens to be your partner.

1. Military history books

Many veterans enjoy learning more about the history of the military, whether it’s in the United States or from somewhere else. A decorative coffee table book can be a beautiful and informative gift.

If your spouse is interested in, say, World War II-era combat, there are plenty of books available on the subject. You could find a book that focuses on your spouse’s branch of the services, like the Air Force or the Marines. There are also great books that focus on marginalized groups within the armed forces. Books on the Tuskegee Airmen or Navajo code talkers can also be meaningful and informative.  

We recommend the Band of Brothers books by Stephen E. Ambrose. 

2. Bullet-shaped metal ice cubes

Many companies make metal ice cubes, like this set of stainless steel cubes, that cool down your drink without melting and watering it down. If your spouse is a skilled marksman or just a weapons enthusiast, bullet-shaped ice cubes are a fun gift. 

They can get their scotch at the perfect temp without worrying about it being diluted by regular ice cubes. 

3. Military-themed challenge coin

A challenge coin is a small medallion that features the insignia or emblem of a particular organization. It is often carried around by members of that organization. You can find a number of challenge coins on Amazon.

They are popular collector’s items for people who have served in the military. If your spouse is a veteran, a challenge coin from his branch of service is a sweet token. You can even get them customized for the recipient. It makes an excellent keepsake gift.

4. Customized grilling tools

Does your spouse love to cook on the grill? You can treat them to a nice set of grilling tools in a customized case, like this custom grill set with a bamboo box.

Get the case etched with the name of your veteran, the branch they served in, and their dates of service. This gift is the perfect blend of thoughtful and practical. And getting something customized elevates it to a whole new level of special. 

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Veterans Day Gift Ideas for Employees

It’s a sad fact, but many veterans have a hard time finding work after leaving the military. It can be difficult for them to translate their skills into a civilian environment. Some employers also have negative stereotypes about veterans. Guardsmen and reservists face even more challenges. A lot of employers are unwilling to accommodate leave for deployments.

If you’ve hired a veteran or reservist, kudos for being willing to overcome any misgivings. You can show even more appreciation by giving a veteran employee a thoughtful gift, like these. 

5. Tactical watch

Gold watches are a classic retirement gift for employees. But watches can make a great gift for people who are still a long way from retirement.

A tactical watch, like this G-Shock Men's GBD800UC-5C style, is an incredibly useful item whether your employee is still in the reserves, or whether they’ve ended their service. Tactical watches feature all kinds of interesting bells and whistles—watch enthusiasts call them complications. Features might include:

  • Compass
  • Barometer
  • Tachymeter
  • Water-resistance
  • Bluetooth

These kinds of watches tend to be incredibly rugged and can withstand heavy use. Depending on your workplace, they may come in handy for the job. They can also be surprisingly sleek and stylish.   

6. Commemorative pen

If you work in a more corporate environment, you can never underestimate the power of a good pen. There’s something really dignified about keeping a special pen on hand for signing important documents. Something like a fountain pen is really special and unusual. As a bonus, it’s much easier on the hand than a ballpoint pen if you have to do a lot of writing. A rollerball pen is a more accessible alternative. 

Several companies make pens that are geared for veterans and active-duty members of the military, like this Personalized Sotania Swiss, Expert Black Roller Ballpen.

The pens come in cases that can be custom-engraved with the recipient’s name, rank, job title, and military branch. You can even get additional personalization on the pen itself. The recipient can use it on a daily basis or hold onto it for signing special documents.  

7. Folded book decor

Most military-themed home and office decor tends to be very red, white, and blue. It’s a lovely color scheme, but not the most subtle. You can go online to sites like Etsy and get decor that’s a little more unique.

Some people can take books and fold the pages so the pages spell out a word or create an image, like this personalized book art from Amazon. Get a book that spells out “Navy” for a Navy vet, or choose one with a silhouette of a soldier saluting. It’s a subtle way to pay homage to someone’s service in a way they can display. 

8. Swiss Army Knife

This won’t be an appropriate gift for every workplace. But these practical and portable tools are well-loved by military members and veterans.

You can get them in all sorts of designs, including an American flag, with a camouflage print, or in a solid color, like this Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-Tool. You can also get them engraved for a special personal touch.  

DIY Veterans Day Gift Ideas

Sometimes the most special gifts are from the heart. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to find the perfect gift. In fact, you can even make it yourself. Here are some sentimental gifts for veterans that you can make yourself. 

9. Create a military-themed playlist

If you’re on a budget, you can still give the veteran in your life a thoughtful present. Put together a playlist filled with military tribute songs. It doesn’t have to feature exclusively John Phillips Sousa marches if that’s not the recipient’s taste.

You can include fun pop culture artifacts like Jimi Hendrix’s interpretation of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Music is one of those universal languages that bring people together. A playlist can help you express how you feel about the person that you create it for.  

If they don't have a music streaming subscription, sign them up for a popular platform like Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon Music Unlimited.

10. Create military-themed artwork

If you have even a little artistic talent, you can craft a really cool piece of custom art for the veteran in your life. Stencils are readily available in that boxy, military-style font. You can get those and a nice piece of reclaimed wood, and stencil a meaningful quote on it.

This could be a military-themed quote. For example, you could stencil out the iconic George Patton quote: “Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way.” You could also just choose a quote that resonates with the recipient.    

If you're not to DIY, customize a large stretched canvas print with a favorite photo and overlay a quote.

11. Airplane succulent planter

Do you have a friend who is or was a military pilot? You can get little wooden planters in the shape of an airplane.

Once you get them, you can fill them with moss and succulents. Arrange them to make a lovely design. It’s more delicate than what you might usually think to do for a military-themed gift, which makes it even more unique. You can buy them a set of live succulents to go along with it, too.

12. Put together a memory book

A memory book is very much what it sounds like. It’s a book where you can keep special mementos that you want to revisit. If you have a friend or family member who was deployed, they need to travel light. They can’t really keep many nostalgic items with them. But you can still put together a memory book that honors their time in the service.

For instance, if one of your children served and wrote you letters from overseas, you can preserve those in a memory book. You can also include things like hometown newspaper articles about their service. Memory books are one of the most thoughtful going away gifts that you can easily DIY. 

We recommend putting your memories in a sturdy book, like this Self Adhesive Photo Album and Magnetic Scrapbook.

Celebrate Veterans With Thoughtful Gifts

Veterans do so much, both for their loved ones and for complete strangers. It’s important to repay the favor and honor them. One of the best ways you can do that is by getting them a gift as a token of your appreciation.

Whether your gift is store-bought or handmade, the important thing is that it comes from the heart. These gifts are guaranteed to have an impact.  

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