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How to Find a Gift for Someone in the Military

Updated on August 28, 2014
My son, the Marine
My son, the Marine | Source

Shopping for Someone in the Military

My sons are in the United States Marine Corps and I have learned that shopping for someone in the military is not easy.

Okay, men in general are not easy to shop for but being in the Marines and living in the barracks puts a lot of limitations on your choices. You have to keep small and portable in mind.

I had to use this strategy several times for Christmas and birthdays. Even though I was lucky to have my sons home for the holidays several times large presents or unpractical gifts were left home.

Solar Powered Chargers

Portable Power Solutionsx2122; Bi Podx2122; 7W Foldable Solar Panel - Portable Solar Charger for use with iPhone, iPad, iPod, Android Smart Phones and Tablets, Windows Phones, Samsung Galaxy, as well as GoPro Cameras and many other 5V USB Devices
Portable Power Solutionsx2122; Bi Podx2122; 7W Foldable Solar Panel - Portable Solar Charger for use with iPhone, iPad, iPod, Android Smart Phones and Tablets, Windows Phones, Samsung Galaxy, as well as GoPro Cameras and many other 5V USB Devices

Solar powered chargers are an ingenious idea and perfect for anyone, especially the military, who may have limited access to electricity to charge phones, tablets, and other electronic devices. Multiple eyelets easily clip or velcro to pack backs or tents.

Ideal for not only deployed military, but campers, hikers and hunters.


What to Send to Someone Deployed

To any serviceman, or woman, deployed the thing they want most is a touch of home and anything to relieve the boredom. According to many or the items below are at the top of the list. I've sent many of these items and they are a big hit among the platoon.

Fun Toys and Electronic Games:

Remember they are just big kids for the most part and boredom is common when you're on watch or waiting.

  • Nerf or foam footballs (my boys loved Nerf Guns)
  • Portable electronics: hand held Playstations, Nintendos
  • Solar powered chargers: for recharging those games and phones
  • Current magazines and books: Game of Thrones is popular with the military
  • Holiday decorations: fun streamers to decorate the tent, barracks, office. Don't just think Christmas but St. Patricks Day, Easter, spring and fall decorations.

Deployment Drive a Serviceman's Best Friend

So true, the infamous deployment drive, or portable hard drive is in valuable on deployment. Computers and technology has become so advanced that a 1 gigabyte storage unit is small enough to fit in a pocket and holds hours of entertainment.

Movies, TV shows and videos can be loaded onto the hard drive then watched on laptops, iPads, and phones. I've been told that Marines share their drives, and when you're in the Middle East, in the middle of desert there is nothing better than watching your favorite show to break the monotony.

My son inherited his Corporals deployment drive when he was in Afghanistan and has passed it along to his younger brother.

Leatherman Tools

Leatherman - MUT Multitool, Black with MOLLE Black Sheath
Leatherman - MUT Multitool, Black with MOLLE Black Sheath

This Leatherman Utility and Tactical tool is highly sought after by people in the military. It not only has the standard screwdrivers, knife, and bottle opener, but also has tools to clean rods and adjust gun sites.

Perfect Christmas gift for a Marine, or anybody shipping out for a deployment.


Think Small, Compact, and Multi-purpose

Think minimalistic when it comes to buying gifts for anyone in the military. Anything that can serve a double purpose, or be used in multiple ways. My Marine sons LOVE their Leathermans and Gerber multi-purpose tools. They are similar to Swiss Army Knives but contain actual tools and not gadgets.

For example a Leatherman converts to heavy duty pliers, but doesn't contain a corkscrew. The "manly man" doesn't drink wine, or if they do they just knock the top off on a table edge or their bare hands (I am kidding)

My sons have several of multi-tools, different sizes, mini Leathermans to carry in their pocket, one for the glove box of their car, one that stays in the kitchen, and a spare, just in case.These are actual heavy duty tools for people who work, hunt, and need to fix things in the field.

One Christmas my oldest got two multi-tools and was totally fine with it because the Gerber came with a belt case. and he was excited.

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Gifts for Veterans

Although I didn't grow up in a military family, my Dad was a veteran of WWII, and the Korean conflict. He spent his 19th birthday on a destroyer off Normandy then reenlisted in the 82'nd Airborne in the 1950s'.

He didn't talk about his military experience, but he was very proud to serve his country. Most veterans are very proud of their service to their country and we are losing more and more World War II Veterans on a daily basis.

Since I know very little about his military service I am always looking for history books and memorabilia. To families with a long military history anything associated with their company, platoon or military branch is a good idea for a gift.

  • Books
  • Company or Platoon shirts or caps
  • Challenge Coins
  • Videos or historical military movies

Send Care Packages

Military Care Package
Military Care Package

You can't go wrong with a food care package. This has everything a deployed serviceman or woman would want: Beef jerky, Pringles, Slim Jim, Crystal Light, pretzels, Ramen noodles, playing cards, and of course sunflower seeds.

Amazon ships these care packages to all APO and FPO military addresses. Even if you don't have a military member in your family you can adopt a soldier or Marine at one of the addresses below.


Where to Send Packages for the Military

Deployed military overseas normally have APO or FPO addresses which are shipped to them via the military from the US. If you don't have a military member in your family and would like to support our troops there are several organizations who can connect you with an individual to support during deployment.

How to Send Care Packages to Deployed Solidiers

Believe it or not not all servicemen have loving families at home. Many are on their own, from broken homes, or from poor families. Their brothers are the soldiers and Marines that stand by their side during combat. Getting letters from school children, packages from people they don't even know, but care really lifts their spirits.

Below are just a few of the organizations which can get addresses to mail letters and packages to deployed military members.

Military Watches

A watch may not seem like an ideal gift for someone in the military, but think about it a little. Before people started carrying smart phones and cell phones how did people tell time? A watch. Now if you're on duty at your job on base cell phones are not allowed. How do you tell time?

If you are a deployed Marine in the middle of the desert of Afghanistan or Iraq how do you tell time? Even if you have a phone (for strictly entertainment purposes) it's probably buried deep in a pocket or pack.

The easiest way for anyone to know the time is to simply look at your wrist. When on mission getting to your destination on time is important, know the time is essential and the wrist watch is one of the single most important pieces of gear.

But get a good, high quality, military grade watch, one that is shock resistant, water resistant and rugged. The watch will get a beating and needs to be reliable.

Send a piece of home to your loved one
Send a piece of home to your loved one | Source

Christmas in the Military

My sons have been lucky to come home during the holiday seasons quite often during their military careers, but there were several times when one or both were missing on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.

Leave is not guaranteed and not an option during deployment. It's even harder to have them away at this time. It's even harder for them. Each year I send a box of cookies and a tin full of Chex Mix (my son's favorite) to share with his platoon and company.

Since I love Christmas trees i also send a small Christmas tree with miniature ornaments for them to decorate. We have a tradition of the Santa Hat when we open presents so I also find a Santa hat hoping they will wear it and spread some Christmas cheer.

Decorations such as garland and candy canes are a given. Anything to hang on bunks, walls, or over doors that can quickly put up and taken down. Think cheap as they will be thrown out after the season is done. Storage is not really an option.

How to Pack Care Packages

Homemade Care Packages

If you decide to pack and ship your own presents and care packages here are a few tips.

  • Ship food and personal care goods separately: don't want cookies to taste like deoderant
  • Use the Priority Mail APO/FPO Flat Rate Box: Free from the post office, cheaper shipping rate than regular mail
  • Use lots of tape on the seams
  • Place the address in the inside of the box:sometimes boxes get damaged or come apare
  • Use plastic containers to pack food: open food attracts insects, rodents, and then snakes. Containers are used to store food when they arrive
  • Place photos and letters in ziplock bags just in case the package gets wet (bags are very useful and will be appreciated)
  • If you want mail back send pre-stamped self addressed envelopes and paper


  • Liquids
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Items in Aerosol Cans
  • Alcohol, firearms or ammo (given)
  • Pork products
  • NO pornographic material

© 2014 Dawn Romine

What other military gifts would you suggest?

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I think these are great ideas. Would have never thought of the solar powered chargers. The following Etsy shop has some great gifts for Armed Forces both retired and active, but I wouldn't recommend it for deployments.

    • ThreeQuarters2Day profile imageAUTHOR

      Dawn Romine 

      4 years ago from Nebraska

      Thanks, I didn't know where to start either. Both my boys took pre deployment leave at Christmas. What do you get them when they have to pack into a sea bag?

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 

      4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      a very handy page, I wouldn't know where to start in this case! helpful

    • ReviewsfromSandy profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      4 years ago from Wisconsin

      Good advice for finding a gift for someone in the military.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Please thank your sons for me. I do appreciate all those who serve our country or have served and it is nice to have some gift ideas.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 

      4 years ago from Land of Aloha

      Very useful page. My nephew is a Marine. You have great gift suggestions; I think a rugged watch in particular would be an excellent choice.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Great suggestions here from an experienced shopper! It looks great!


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