The Best Boot Camp Graduation Gifts

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For the last few months, everyone here at SpouesBuzz HQ has been stressing out about various basic training gifts for graduation. Y’ALL. IT IS HARD WORK! I mean, I know boot camp must be hard and all — I say “must” because writing “I have no freaking clue because I would never, ever, ever be capable of surviving even the first day” would make for lots of run on sentences, like this one — BUT, finding a present for boot camp graduation is also really, really hard.

Because you start thinking about it and the list starts to look like this: Money? A gift card? Me and a steak dinner and a really well air-conditioned hotel room? And then suddenly you’re pouring yourself a glass of wine and wondering if this chill-out glass of wine you’re pouring yourself might be present enough anyway.

And the thing is, while those are all really, really wonderful presents, they’re not particularly unique. I mean, of course you and a hotel room and a steak dinner is a good idea. But if you’re anything like me, that’s just not enough. That nagging … and? is plaguing you, and you have no idea what to finish it with.

So we’ve searched the world high and low, stalked our favorite gift givers for their top advice, and built what we think might be the master list of the Best Basic Training Gifts Ever.

You, hotel room, and steak dinner not included. (But encouraged.)

A Challenge Coin

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I keep hearing that Challenge Coins are making their way out, which I find at once impossible to believe and also completely unacceptable. So start his collection as one of his boot camp gifts: “Give him his first challenge coin,” says Marine Corps wife Sarah. You can get one custom made, or you can buy one online: Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Army.

A Real Watch with the Graduation Date on the Back

Personalized watch from LimogesJewelry.com

Keepsake watch from LimogesJewelry.com

We’re not talking the black G-Shock they’ll live in for the next few years. We’re talking to the Sunday Best, wear it to the ball, would get buried in it if your great-grandchildren weren’t busy fighting over who gets to keep it in a hundred years. (The answer: Whichever one is headed to bootcamp too!) You can get watches with the branch’s emblem on the face, which are always nice, or you can go for the classic face and nice band (we recommend leather – it doesn’t hold the sweat stank). Whatever you choose, find a local jeweler who can put his initials and the graduation date on the back of it. Sure, it’s not as practical as a tablet or pre-loaded Master Card, but it’s a memento he’ll have to cherish the rest of his life. And if the vets we all know are any example, you can bet your bottom he will love it forever.

Ka-Bar: Custom Engraved or Plain

Engraved ka-bar via ValorStudios.com

Engraved ka-bar via ValorStudios.com

An Engraved Ka-Bar. Because we’ve yet to meet a guy who didn’t want one… and the engraving says “hey, I thought about this well enough in advance to actually get it done, and look, it really is just for you as a basic training gift.” Although if the engraving isn’t something yours would appreciate, save the dough for future visits.

A Targeted Gift Card

… And we don’t mean to Target. We mean a gift card that travels with them to their next duty station and is something they, personally, will really appreciate. Our own Army wife Amy had the brilliant idea to get her sister a gift card to the on-base gas station at her next duty station. Navy girlfriend Nicole found a local Italian restaurant her boyfriend would love and coordinated a pre-paid dinner with the owner. And Marine Corps mom Sara booked her son a night at a local Hampton Inn to refresh, recoup, and take a real shower. Think through where he’s going to be next: Is there something there that would be a good fit that you could coordinate already? Keep in mind that he or she won’t control the schedule, so don’t go out of your way to buy tickets to that mid-day baseball game he’d love. Chances are, he’d be stuck just loving it, and not actually attending.

Custom Cigar Bands + Lighter

Cigar time from Marines Magazine

Okay, very quickly: Smoking will kill you and we in no way, shape, or form support it. BUT. Cigars are pretty celebratory… and I’ve yet to meet a guy that didn’t want to spark one at the birth of his child, graduation from anything remotely important, or, for that matter, basically at any point he can think of to celebrate. So enough cigars for him and his buddies with a customized band or, if you’re feeling fancy, an engraved lighter might be just what the doctor (or soldier!) ordered.

Tell us: What were the best basic training gifts you’ve given? Or received?

About the Author

Raleigh Duttweiler
Raleigh Duttweiler is a writer and social media expert living just outside the gates of MacDill in sunny Saint Petersburg, Florida. A Marine Corps wife, she has navigated the stress of Active Duty moves, trainings, and deployments, and now that her family has transitioned to the Reserves, she's experiencing the "weekend warrior" side of military life. (NB: It's not quite as part-time as advertised.) When not writing about benefits and military families, Raleigh posts here about truly life-altering, important issues like What Not to Wear to a Military Ball (visible thongs), Military Halloween Costumes We Love to Hate (ones that generally resemble both military uniforms AND thongs), and how to pack awesome care packages. She is passionate about spouse employment, higher education, and helping families navigate the often-bumpy transition back into civilian life. Raleigh also manages the SpouseBUZZ and Military.com Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest pages, so be sure to say hi!
  • hc.conn

    I got my husband a laptop. Practical so that we could Skype and also his only form of entertainment during the long months of AIT.

    • lori

      how much is the wifi or internet access while at AIT?

  • retusnnavywife

    AAFES or NEX gift card.

  • michellevolkmann

    These are awesome ideas!! I am always struggling to find a gift for the few times my hubby has been promoted or retirement gifts for his bosses.

  • Husband of Navy Wife

    These are great ideas for husbands/boyfriends or male personnel however what about ideas for women? I am struggling with finding the right gift for my wife. Ideas are welcome thanks