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10 Gift ideas for new recruits

The secret to coming up with good gift ideas for new recruits is thinking about …


The secret to coming up with good gift ideas for new recruits is thinking about what will make a big difference in their lives after they get done with basic training.

So someone you know just joined the military, and you want to give them a going away gift they’ll actually use or value. Gift-giving is especially hard when it comes to new recruits, because they’re traveling so much at first and are focused on paring down their possessions, not accumulating more. But giving a gift can also be a great way to tell someone how proud you are of them before they leave for boot camp, or when they graduate.

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Here are some ideas:

  1. A steaming service subscription. In a recent Sandboxx survey, an incredible 92% of respondents – all young military servicemembers – said they use a streaming service. Netflix and Hulu are two of the most popular streaming services.
  2. An Apple TV. Most new recruits will be headed to live in the barracks after basic training. Televisions, gaming systems and related items can be excellent gifts.
  3. Nintendo Switch. Handheld gaming consoles like a Nintendo Switch are great options, especially when you know your recruit will be traveling a lot.
  4. Amazon Prime membership. Sandboxx’s recent survey found that nearly half of respondents had Amazon Prime memberships.
  5. Food delivery gift cards. If there’s one gift that will always be valued by a new recruit, it’s the gift of food. Food delivery services like UberEats, DoorDash and GrubHub all offer gift cards. Find out who delivers to base first.
  6. A gift card to the Exchange. Sandboxx’s survey found that young servicemembers shop at the Exchange more often than they shop on Amazon or any online store. You can order one here.
  7. A meditation app subscription. Moving, starting a new job, and meeting new people are high-stress enough, without the military component. Meditation is a proven way to reduce stress. Even if you think your recruit will be skeptical, if it’s already been purchased, he or she might actually try it.
  8. A fitness gift. A Fitbit, Apple watch, or fitness app subscription are all valuable gift ideas, considering how important staying fit will be to your recruit’s career.
  9. A box of basic supplies. It’s not the most glamorous idea, but a box full of razors, socks, snacks, toothbrushes, deodorant, and shower shoes could actually be the gift your recruit is the most grateful for. Check what he or she is allowed to bring to basic training if that’s where they’re headed (food items, for example, are not allowed). Pack them with a nice toiletry bag.
  10. A letter. The most personal gifts are always the best. Write your recruit a heartfelt letter about how loved they are. Include a photo if you can.

Victoria Kelly is a former military spouse and the author of When the Men Go Off to War and Mrs. Houdini. She graduated from Harvard University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Find her at

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