I’ve faced down my fair share of military events. But nothing is more daunting than finding the just-right gift to give for a military graduation. About a decade ago, I had the Year of Graduations: OCS, TBS, MOS school. All within about six months.
Friend, I was flat gift giving-ed out!
However, all of that gifting taught me a few things about giving the military graduate the perfect gift. Follow these simple rules:
- Something professional useful
- Something they will truly use at home
- Something consumable
- Something very small (that will take up approximately zero space when PCSing)
With that in mind, I present to you: the EVERYTHING guide to giving the perfect military graduation gift
For the Brand-New Military Grad
We’re talking that fresh from OCS or boot camp lady or gent. Someone who is taking their first dip into military life.
Everyone wears them, and they get really gross extra fast. Thanks, field exercises! Treat your special someone to fancy socks from Thorlo, Darn Tough, or Bombas. Thorlo and Darn Tough are both proudly made in the US. Bombas donates one pair of socks for each pair purchased!
My husband has carried his Leatherman multi-tool since 2001. He’s brought it on multiple deployments and for family camping trips. Seriously, it’s saved his (our) skin so many times!
Lemme tell you about how much money we’ve dropped on uniforms over the last 20 years. Many new recruits will be offered discounted or even maybe free dress and utility uniforms. However, with each promotion and new award or medal, they’ll need to pay out for pricey upgrades. Ask your military grad if you can gift them their next set of rank insignia in advance!
A Good Night’s Sleep:
Every time I saw my spouse during his early OCS training cycle (via photos of course), he looked more and more exhausted. Those zero dark thirty wake up calls and all day, every day challenge course runs will really sap strength! Treat your military grad to a good night’s sleep! Pay for a night or two at a local, upscale hotel with a really cushy bed.
New Military Specialty School Grad Gifts
Your person isn’t a baby-faced newbie anymore. Nope, they’re starting to get salty. And you need gifting ideas to match.
Things for Their Military Specialty
Every military job does different things. For example, a public affairs officer doesn’t need the same tools as a person in the infantry. Think about their job, check out a few blog posts, and then shop with that in mind. For example, someone in the infantry would really appreciate a high quality soap to really get the grit off after a stretch in the field. But someone who is working with computers, like a communications expert or intelligence officer, might enjoy blue light glasses.
High Quality Shades
Again, consider your person’s military occupation, but everyone will likely need some form of eye protection for running, shooting, and spending time in varied outdoor conditions over their career. My spouse swears by his Oakley sunglasses! He has a clear pair for the range and regular athletic-type shades for running, field exercises and general use.
They’re headed out into the big, bad world. They’ll likely be going to their first (or next) duty station ASAP to set up house – or barracks, as the case may be. Why not surprise your person with things to make life a little easier? We’ve previously recommended really GOOD coffee makers, slow cookers, and high-quality irons. These three little things will help your person get up, fuel up and spiff up in record time!
Grads of Advanced or Collegiate-Level Courses
So your person scored a new degree or advanced certification mid-career. Congrats! But also, if they’re beyond the first year or so of military life, they likely have most of the start-up stuff mentioned earlier. This is the time for consumable, small footprint items.
Beverages of Choice:
Celebrate success with a bottle or bag or tin of their favorite beverage. Whether that’s a really good Scotch, a nice wine, local IPA, exceptional coffee (try Swatara Coffee Co.!) or tea– the choice is yours! Just make sure it’s high quality and to the recipient’s taste.
Even the saltiest of military personnel enjoy adding color to their walls. And gifting a (small, non-breakable) piece of local art is the ideal way to break up the swaths of unit plaques and military-themed decor. Find a nice print and have it framed at a locally-owned shop! Or grab an ornament for their Christmas tree.
They’re fancy now with their degree or advanced certifications. So treat them to the best meal of their lives… or at least this duty station. Grab a gift card to a higher-end eatery so they can celebrate their success!
Treat Yourself Trip
This is for the spouses and partners who have supported their person throughout this school phase. Take a trip. That’s it. That’s the gift. And here’s why: you’ve both committed to this moment and this career milestone. You’ve both made sacrifices to get to this point. Friend, you deserve to have your sacrifices honored, too. Treat yourselves, both of you, to a trip that caps your whole, crazy ride.