Rules / Etiquette

11 Totally Epic Military Retirement Gift Ideas for Service Members

Inside: Ultimate guide to military retirement gift ideas that’ll have service members feeling appreciated, honored. Funny, unique, personal gifts to forever cherish.

Retirement! What a time to celebrate. Over the past twenty years (at least!) the honored service member has devoted their life to service. Now it’s time to party! But when that retirement ceremony or party invitation arrives, you may feel a little panicked about gift expectations.

Gift-giving in the military can be intimidating. First, let’s just say that there is never a time when a gift is required. If you can’t afford it, don’t want to buy it, or aren’t sure what to get, it’s absolutely ok to show up without a gift. (I do recommend a card with a heartfelt note though, you don’t really want to arrive empty-handed.)

Collage of military retirement gifts

As with everything else in the military, there are some traditions and protocols when it comes to retirement gifts. First of all, personal gifts are not encouraged at the official retirement ceremony. If there’s a party or reception, that is the time for gifts!

Military Retirement Gift Ideas Any Service Member Will Love

Did you know that of the 22 million veterans in the US, less than 10% of them served a minimum of 20 years to be considered retired? It really is a big deal!

Still not quite sure what to give, here’s a list of our 11 best military retirement gift ideas.

1. Custom Wooden Pieces

Home décor is a great military retirement gift idea. Consider customizing wood gifts with their name, branch, and years of service. Ideas include wooden décor, cutting boards, front porch signs, and even a small nameplate for their new desk.

Custom wooden gifts for military

Where to find it:

2. Scale Model of Ship, Aircraft, or Tank

Service members are very loyal, and most tend to be nostalgic about their particular ship, aircraft, or land vessel. Gifting a miniature model of their passion is a great way to show them you’ve paid attention all these years. It also gives them something to show off to guests in their home.

Detailed gift models of military ships, aircraft and land vessels.

Where to find it:

3. Bar Gift Set

From beer steins to wine glasses to whiskey decanters, there’s always room in the home bar for more! Consider a personalized decanter to display. Or even a fun piece of wall-art that allows the new retiree to share all the places they’ve drunk a pint or a glass of wine.

Collage of bar gifts for military service members.

Where to find it:

4. Engraved Watch, Clock or Compass

When the uniform is hung up for the last time, so are the regulations that dictate what kind of watch a service member can wear. This opens up a world of possibilities for their new timepiece, including pocket watches. Thoughtful engravings can make their new watch even more special.

Collage of personalized clocks, compasses and watches for military.

Where to find it:

5. Military Blanket or Quilt

Encourage your favorite retiree to cuddle up and relax with a new blanket or quilt. These can be custom made out of old uniforms, t-shirts from past units or duty stations, or even display a particular region of the world where the service member was stationed.

Collage of personalized blankets for military service members.

Where to find it:

6. Flag or Medal Display Case

Having an important flag is pretty common in military households, but often they sit on a shelf waiting for the “perfect place.” For a great retirement gift, consider a nice, wooden shadow box or display case for a flag. Or for medals, or even for that NCO sword.

Collage of shadow boxes made for retiring military service members.

Where to find it:

7. Coin Display Rack

Just like the flag that may be sitting around, your service member most likely has a drawer full of coins. Military coins are made to be displayed! A great way to display them is in a custom coin case or shelving. Again, this is a gift that can be personalized.

Collage of challenge coin racks made to display military challenge coins.

Where to find it:

8. Nice Chess Set

Chess lovers will get a kick out of military-themed sets. Some of them depict historic battles, others feature college rivalry, and some are even hand-carved. A beautiful chess set can be used as a piece of décor as well as a functional gift.

Two custom chess sets - one bullet chess set, one wooden set.

Where to find it:

9. Golf Gifts

Now that they’re retired, there’s tons of time to golf, right? Encourage them with a new putter, golf balls and tees, or a gift certificate to the local golf course.

Custom golf balls, towels and golf ball gift set.

Where to find it:

10. Memory Book

Help keep the memories of the last 20 years alive by assembling a photo book or scrapbook. Reach out to friends or family members to contribute, or leave some pages blank for others to leave notes or send photos.

Memory retirement book from "From a Birdie"

Where to find it:

11. Funny Gifts

Sometimes, a funny gift is the perfect gift. This “important paper” gift is a great way to remind the retiree to embrace the fun in retirement. These funny gifts are especially relevant if you share an inside joke.

Toliet paper with wrapping that says "Official retirement paper US Air Force."

When you’ve selected the perfect gift for this military retirement, consider these few things as well.

  • Plan in advance, personalization, shipping, and manufacturing may take longer than you think.
  • Also, if the retiree is moving soon after retirement, you may consider waiting until they move and mailing it to their house.
  • If an item is fragile, wrap it in its original container for safe shipping.

Remember, gifts are not why you’ve been invited to share in this special occasion. Your presence means something to the person retiring and honoring them is the reason you are there. Gifts are a nice way to say congratulations or “thank you for your service,” but they are not the only way to preserve the memories.

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Collage of military retirement gifts

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  1. You missed a military retirement favorite on this list. Handcrafted custom military retirement keepsake shadow boxes from Relic Wood. Veteran owned family business. Check them out and possibly include on this list?

  2. I like your suggestion about getting a wooden shadow box or display case for a flag, medals, or even an NCO sword. My siblings and I are having a hard time coming up with a gift for a veteran dad. Perhaps we should have a custom wooden shadow box made, and add a military insignia badge to it. Thanks for the idea!

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