Military gifts can be personal or official; they usually are given on special occasions such as promotion, retirement or departure for a new assignment. Plaques are a traditional gift for retirements and completed assignments, as are signed photographs. Special retirement gifts include personalised shadowboxes or coin displays, or a mounted replica of an actual or ceremonial weapon. Less elaborate gift options for military personnel include engraved pen sets or special books about their branch of the service or military aircraft, weaponry or ships.
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Plaques are the standard gift for a military member departing for a new assignment or upon completion of a special project. The plaques typically are wooden and rectangular in shape, although occasionally they may be shaped like a crest or the state where the individual has been serving. The plaques are personalised with the individual's name, rank and time of service in the position being recognised; a humorous or inspirational quote also may be added. The focal point of the plaque usually is the seal or crest of the organisation where the individual served.
Large poster-sized matted (and sometimes framed) photographs of a special location where a military member served are a special personalised gift for someone leaving an assignment. The photo, map or overhead image is centred in a mat with a wide border; the service member's colleagues and office-mates then sign the mat with names, dates or other personal message. A favourite in this category is a framed picture of the Pentagon in a rear view mirror for those who have served a tour in that famed military structure; a missile launch is popular with those who served at a U.S. missile base.
Retirement gifts typically are designed to reflect an entire military career. The most common of these is the shadowbox. Colleagues and family members collect military medals, rank insignia, unit patches, dog tags and other memorabilia specific to the retiring member and arrange these in dark wood shadowbox. The centrepiece is usually a folded American flag, often previously flown at an overseas location of significance to the retiring service member, or over the U.S. Capitol in the retiree's honour by his congressman.
Other Retirement Gifts
Another specialised retirement gift is a mounted display of the unit coins the military member received during the course of her career. Such coins are unique to each unit and are a long-standing part of military tradition. A retiring military member may also receive a specially-mounted replica of a prized weapon -- a Marine Corps sabre or antique Army pistol, for example -- or a model of the tank or aircraft the retiree used throughout his career. Virtually all retirement gifts contain a brass plate with the individual's name, rank at retirement and dates of career service.
Gifts for Military Promotion or other Occasion
Gifts are sometimes given for a promotion in rank, completion of a professional class or program, or selection for supervisory duties or higher position. These are less elaborate than retirement gifts but often still personal in nature. Common among gifts in this category are engraved pen and pencil sets, a stone, wooden or marble nameplate for one's desk or a coffee table-style book about the person's specific service branch or military weaponry or memorabilia. For those reaching the rank of colonel, an eagle-themed carving or statue is a valued gift. The eagle represents the wings worn as a symbol of the colonel's rank.
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