Are you looking for a gift to give a retired veteran in your life? Maybe you’ve heard of shadow boxes and wish to gift or create one yourself. Military shadow boxes are a beautiful way to commemorate the sacrifices and honor of serving in the armed forces. For those who haven’t heard of a military shadow box, it is typically a glass-front case or box with a wooden frame that houses the medals, insignia, ribbons, and other items that are collected during the veteran’s time in service. This housing creates a display that can be hung up on walls, placed on shelves, and gifted to a veteran in your life or created in memory of a veteran.
Each military shadow box is unique, as each service member’s experience is individual to them. They can be as ornate or as simple as you’d like. You can purchase them or make them yourself. They are a piece of art, but also a beautiful way to display and remember your loved one’s military history and accomplishments for generations to come. When you create this gift, you are encasing and displaying a piece of history. Not only a tiny piece of the history of this country, but also a piece of your own family’s history. A veteran and their family and friends can feel proud of the efforts and sacrifices made every time they view this military gift hanging on the wall.
Getting Started With The Creation of Your Military Shadow Box
To begin the creation process of your military shadow box, whether ordering one or making your own, you’ll need to collect all of the items that you intend to put into the box. Remember, your shadow box is a custom creation. It can be a large scale if you want, or much smaller, depending on your preferences.
Some items that you might want to gather include, but aren’t limited to:
- A copy of the service member’s DD-214 or a Certificate Of Release Or Discharge from Active Duty
- Rank insignia
- Nameplates and tags
If you are including photographs, you can use photos of the veteran in uniform, times in service, or photos of family members. Sometimes these images are incorporated into the shadow box, and other times they are framed and gifted along with the shadow box to personalize the gift even more.
After you have gathered all of your shadow box inventory, it’s now time to figure out how you want to display each item. You’ll want to ensure ribbons and medals are in order of precedence. If you are ordering a custom-made shadow box, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from, ranging from the size of the box to the background colors, among other choices.
If you want to eliminate a lot of the guesswork and effort involved in physically making the box, you can order from many different companies. Medals of America makes military shadow boxes, and they also provide certain replacement medals, badges, and ribbons if yours are lost.
Making Your Own Shadow Box
You can make your own shadow box, which can range from pretty simple to intensely complex depending on what you’re going for. Just like with any project, it’s important to do some prep work to make sure you have all of the supplies that you need while also taking steps to ensure you aren’t doing any damage to the memorabilia.
Items you’ll likely need:
- If you want to go the easiest route, you can purchase a “shadow box” at a local craft store. It’ll come with the box already created and then you just need the extra materials for mounting and adding pieces to the project.
- If you don’t purchase a DIY type of “kit,” you’ll need some type of framing and backing.
- Hook and Loop velcro is great for mounting your pieces onto the display board.
- Something to cut the velcro with. This could be an Xacto knife, scissors, or a razor blade of sorts.
- Tape measure and even a level can be useful for ensuring that all of the pieces are evenly spaced apart. This will provide clean lines because you don’t want to hang up your completed project to find that everything is uneven and crooked.
- If your shadow box doesn’t already have something mounted to the back of it (for mounting it to the wall), you’ll probably want picture hooks, nails, a small crafting hammer, and hanging wire.
- Cleaners and cloth. You’ll want to use these as you go to keep the inside as clean as possible. You’ll also want to use this on the outside of the finished piece so that the completed project is neat and fingerprint-free.
You can find a variety of tutorials on YouTube that provide instruction for building your own shadow box, as well as how to mount your own ribbons and medals.
Creating a military shadow box for yourself or gifting it to a loved one who is currently in the military, who has retired, or as a family heirloom of a veteran who has passed, is a wonderful way to showcase the veteran’s contributions to the country. A military shadow box provides an opportunity to have discussions about your loved one’s ranking, experiences, achievements, and the in-between stories of life as a military service member.