Army ETS Awards & Gift Ideas

In today’s post, I’d like to educate you about possible Army ETS awards and gift ideas. These are simple, affordable gift ideas you can use to recognize Soldiers leaving the Army. At the end of the article, I will also briefly cover example service and achievement medals you can recognize Soldiers with.

First off, let me take a moment to define what ETS means:

In the United States military, ETS generally stands for “expiration – term of service” and is contained in each service member’s contract. On the ETS date, a service member’s current contract has expired and the service member is free to leave the military or sign a re-enlistment contract. ~

Most Soldiers do not make a career out of the Army. In fact, most ETS. This normally happens within their first two to ten years in the Army. Some people leave after their initial enlistment and others leave after their second or third one.

It is a common custom in the military to present people leaving the unit (in whatever capacity) with some type of gift or award. Gifts vary from person-to-person and by unit. In many cases, service members who worked with the Soldier leaving the military pool their money together to purchase something nice.

army ets awards

Army ETS Gift Ideas for Groups

The Army ETS Gift ideas you see below are for groups of people pooling their money together to buy someone a gift. For instance, if everyone in a platoon is pooling their money together to purchase an ETS Award for a departing Soldier, they will have a bigger budget and be able to afford something nice. A good budget for a group gift is $100 to $500. If everyone chips in $5 to $10, it’s easy to come up with this amount of money.

The amount of money you spend on a person’s gift, as a group, is a personal decision, but I suggest you keep it in the $100 to $500 range. Of course, there could be other factors too, such as the person’s rank, the number of years they’ve served in the military, and their performance.


Cash is always king. If the service member is about to ETS, I can’t think of a better gift to give them than cash money. If you collect a small donation from everyone in the unit and pool it together, you could easily come up with a few hundred dollars that you could give to the Soldier as they depart. This could be used to help them move, pay off bills, and start the next chapter of their life.


Hear me out on this one before you think I’m crazy. Assuming you’ve collected a few hundred dollars, you could purchase a gift card or a voucher for a mini-vacation to many destinations foreign and domestic. If nothing else, you could get the person a gift card toward their favorite airline, or purchase them a trip to visit their family.

Shadow Box

Shadow boxes are always a great gift idea for people leaving the military. You could order a shadow box online and put copies of their medals, awards, ranks, pins, and other sentimental items in it. This is a popular gift idea that veteran’s love.

Statue, Sword, or Saber

This gift idea won’t apply for everyone, but if the person spent a lot of time in the military or has a rank of say, Staff Sergeant, or higher, you might consider purchasing a bronze statue, a sword for NCOs or a saber for officers.

Gift Ideas for Individuals

If you’re trying to find gift ideas to give to an individual Soldier just from you, here are some of my favorite ideas. As a rule of thumb, try to keep the gift in the $25 to $50 range.

Cash or Gift Card

A gift card or small amount of cash is a good gift idea. You could get them a gift card to their favorite restaurant or store.

Personalized Plaque

This is a common Army ETS gift. Most Soldiers leaving the military receive some type of customized plaque from their unit or section. The plaque normally is engraved and has the Soldier’s personalized information on it.

Photo Album

This is one of my favorite gift ideas for people leaving the Army. You could assemble a collection of photographs of the person over the past few years and compile it into a personalized photo album.

Take Them Out to Lunch

You could take the Soldier who is about to ETS out to lunch to their favorite restaurant. Don’t forget to pay for their meal!

Personalized Coffee Mug

There are lots of great personalized and/or funny coffee mugs you can buy on Amazon. Each time the person drinks their morning cup of coffee they will think of you.

Personalized Pocket Knife

This is one of my favorite Army ETS Gift Ideas. Everyone needs a good pocket knife. You can buy a really nice quality pocket knife for $50 to $75 and have it engraved. I recommend a Case XX.

Hand Written Letter

This gift idea is 100% free and probably the most impactful one I know of. You could take a few hours and write a nice personalized letter to the person telling them everything you admire about them and how you enjoyed working with them. This is something they will keep and cherish forever.

personalized military gifts

Army ETS Awards

If you’re thinking about presenting an award for a Soldier about to ETS from the Army, the most common types of awards are Army Achievement Medals or Army Commendation Medals. That would be a good starting point, depending on their rank. Even better award, if applicable, would be a branch specific award. This would include something like the Ordnance Order of Samuel Sharpe (for Ordnance personnel) or the Honorable Order of Saint Martin (for Quartermaster personnel). Each branch in the Army has their own award, so please look into this.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, these are my best thoughts on Army ETS Awards and gift ideas. What do you think? What are some of your favorite gift ideas for people leaving the military? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:
  1. National Guard ETS Process
  2. Job Hunting Tips for Veterans
  3. Military Career Tips
  4. How to Network in the Military
  5. How to Map Out Your Military Career
chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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