The holiday season is a prime opportunity for loved ones to share past memories. While family and friends gather together, why not help your Veteran share his or her experiences? Military service is likely not something the Veteran will bring up of his or her own accord.
Like many Veterans I know, I have a typical collection of motivational gear at home. I have a plaque from my last command with messages from Marines I served with; a foot locker full of odds and ends; and a Hawaiian spear given to me by an awesome gunnery sergeant. I don’t own anything that reflects where I served or what I did. I don’t have a shadow box and, honestly, wouldn’t feel comfortable buying myself one. It’s one of those things that someone else has to give to you, just like how you don’t give yourself your own nickname.
I know where I would start to find a gift for a fellow Veteran, but a non-Veteran might find it to be a challenging task. If you don’t have a personal perspective, how do you know if a military-themed gift is too generic, too corny, or even insensitive? Fortunately, there are military gifts experts who can help.
Joe Winslow of the Tripoli Gift Company spent 22 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, and after retiring, he started his own company that produces gifts for Veterans. Joe spent 15 years as the command adjutant, and it was often his responsibility to prepare awards for Marines. That’s when he saw the need for recognition gifts in the civilian world.
“(Veterans) will come in and only have one or two gifts from their command that commemorates what they did in the Marine Corps,” Winslow said. “That is the one thing on their wall that, when they are grandparents, their kids will look at and say, ‘That’s what my dad or grandpa did in the Marine Corps.’”
He also offers some advice when selecting a gift for a Veteran who has been involved in combat.
“It should have some thought behind it; everyone comes back from war with a different experience,” he said. “Some may have experiences they don’t want to remember, so you have to be thoughtful about that.”
Most of all, he says the gift should be American-made. Winslow works with military units and businesses alike to produce lasting keepsakes. He has produced all kinds of gear, from unit coins to giant green Army men, to even the official seal seen in the backdrop of presidential addresses.
It’s clear that Winslow has true passion for helping Veterans remember their military service. His experience in the military is the reason he started his business in the first place. Soon after 9/11, he volunteered to be recalled to active duty and soon found himself in Fallujah, Iraq, as a field combat historian. It was during these times that he became aware of the sacrifices that Servicemembers make.
“These [gifts] are really my kind of tributes to them,” he said. “To recognize their sacrifices, decisions and heroics, on their part, means a lot to me.”
If you are planning on getting your Veteran something special this holiday season, be sure to put some thought behind it. Instead of giving your Veteran the same novelty-type items that he or she is used to, consider giving a gift that invokes positive memories and invites him or her to share some military experiences.