This story was originally published in the Chicago Tribune Prime Time senior living section.
Every day is a great day to show a veteran you care. Here are some thoughtful gift ideas that will remind them how much their service has meant to you. Gifts range from personalized plaques to honor a veteran’s service to books that may prompt the sharing of memories about a veteran’s experiences serving his or her country. We also have a suggestion for a fun military-themed outing with your favorite veteran.
If you know a veteran who is also a U.S. warship or submarine buff, then he or she would probably love to have one of these on the wall in the den. Priorservice.com sells a selection of prints of various carriers, destroyers, transports, battleships, submarines and more from the World War II era through the mid-20th century. They are the work of the renowned military artist Ian Hall. There are dozens and dozens from which to choose. How neat would it be to give a veteran who served on one of these vessels a proud reminder of their shared history? The prints measure 19-by-13-inches and are sold for $39.99 each, unframed, at priorservice.com.
Sword & Plough bag
Add some military-inspired style to a veteran’s life with a bag from Sword & Plough. The company designs and makes bags from military surplus fabrics, and does it all in the U.S.A. The company is veteran-owned and also employs veterans. There is a wide variety of bags from which to choose, such as messenger bags, tote bags, handbags, weekender bags, backpacks and more. Most of the items sport the classic military camouflage, navy or khaki colors plus leather handles and trim. Tote bags start at $59; messenger bags are $269; backpacks start at $159. Visit swordandplough.com.Personalized plaqueA commemorative plaque is a permanent way to remember a veteran’s service and preserve it at home for future generations to admire. Vetshonored.com sells high-quality plaques that can be personalized with the veteran’s military photo, rank and branch of service, hometown, honors and more. The top of the plaque features an image of the appropriate war memorial in Washington, D.C., or official military logos. The plaque is framed with a choice of silver or black with gold edging. It can sit on a table top or hang on the wall. The plaque measures 8-by-10-inches and costs $79.95 at vetshonored.com.
Books on Veterans and War
“Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War” (Scribner, 2014) is a critically acclaimed true story written in 2014 by Helen Thorpe. She chronicles the lives of three women who joined the Indiana National Guard before 9/11 and never expected to be deployed overseas as full-time soldiers in combat zones. But that is exactly what happened. Thorpe chronicles their lives in the military abroad and at home — and their friendships with each other — over 12 years. The book was praised for its beautiful writing and absorbing storytelling. It also gives insight into modern women’s roles in the military. “Soldier Girls” was named the number one nonfiction book of 2014 by Time Magazine. Retail price: $17 in paperback.
The 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor is a good time to learn more about the infamous day that started America’s march into WWII. “Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness” (Scribner, 2016) is the result of five years of research, which also uncovered new information about the attack. It is woven together into a blow-by-blow account of the events of Dec. 7, 1941. It also details the years of international events that led up to the tragedy, and explains the reasons Japan attacked the U.S. in the first place. The book is notable for relating the story from both Japanese and American perspectives. Author Craig Nelson is an award-winning author of the New York Times bestseller, “Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon.” Retail price: $32 in hardcover.
Trip to Cantigny Park
If you’d rather give the gift of an experience rather than an object, how about a trip to Cantigny Park in Wheaton? The former estate of Colonel Robert R. McCormick (WWI veteran and formidable Chicago Tribune publisher) is a military wonderland. It features the famous First Division Museum, which tells the story of this historic unit of the U.S. Army from WWI to WWII to Vietnam, through artifacts, weapons and vehicles. Outside, there is a tank park with more than 100 years of armor. Cantigny is also known for its golf course and glorious grounds that host events from weddings to concerts to military re-enactments. You can also tour the mansion, which is replete with military memorabilia as well. Note: The First Division Museum will close temporarily after Veterans Day 2016 for renovation, but the rest of Cantigny Park will remain open. Veterans and active military personnel can join the Cantigny Honor Club for free and receive free admission to the park, discounts and other benefits. Visit Cantigny.org for more information.