The military accomplishments of you or your loved ones are something for which you should be proud. These things are part of your family’s legacy and they shouldn’t be packed away in a box somewhere, hidden from everyone. Display cases or military shadow boxes are great ideas for displaying various military accomplishments in your home or could even make an amazing military retirement gift.

Putting together a military shadow box (or shadowboxes) for home display can seem a little daunting at first, but if you come up with a few ideas in advance, it can help you get organized and put together something really wonderful. You’ll be surprised at all the great options you have for displaying military accomplishments and other things that have to do with your time in the service.

What are some of the

military retirement shadow box ideas you can use for displaying in the home?

Medals and Ribbons

Obviously, the first thing you’ll want to include in a military shadow box is anything related to the accomplishments of your time in the service. The medals and ribbons you earned and wore on your uniform are an ideal feature. These things are likely some of your proudest accomplishments in life—likely the proudest—and the best way to enjoy them is to display them.

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If you’ve been keeping your or your loved one’s medals and ribbons in a box or locked away somewhere else, now is the time to bring them out and get them on display.


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Another great addition to a shadow box honoring your time in the military is photos. Chances are good you snapped quite a few photos while you were traveling and bonding with other military members.

Chances are you won’t get to see these people on a regular basis since the military brings people together from all over the country and the entire world. Having photos of the people who are special to you can bring comfort and be a great way to remember the good times and cope with the less-than-good times.

Photos are also a great way to promote conversation about your time in the military. Sometimes, people aren’t sure what to ask or how to launch a conversation about a loved one’s military experience. Photos are a great jumping off point and allow everyone to talk about the various experiences and reflect on time spent in the military. In addition to allowing you to share stories about special people in your life, photos are also a great way to honor the fallen and make sure those who were lost are not forgotten.


Chances are good you received or sent a few letters during your time in the military. Many they were actual paper letters or maybe they were emails; the point is you were communicating with loved ones back home while away. These letters can be great additions to your shadow box. You can print out emails if necessary, but if you have any handwritten letters, make sure to include those.

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If you are putting together a shadow box for a loved one, letters are a great addition. Some people love to include letters they wrote to a loved during military service or to add love letters between their parents or grandparents that were written while they were separated.

Souvenirs from Travels

A final great addition to a military shadow box is mementos and souvenir from your travels. You might have items from your travels while you were on R&R or you managed to pick up a few things from the countries where you were deployed. These make great items to add to a military shadow box because they remind you of the best times of your military time.

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Items like this also make great conversation starters. If you aren’t ready to talk in-depth about your time in the military or you’re concerned that asking certain questions might upset a loved one, talking about the places that were visited is a great way to have a discussion. Being in the military provides an opportunity to travel the world and this can be a great topic of discussion to help you learn about the things you’re loved one has experienced.

Theme Your Box

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In addition to the things you put in your box, you might want to consider other ways to make it interesting. Theming your box is a great way to organize a variety of items. You might even want to do a few different themed military shadow boxes.

For instance, you can put together a box for medals and ribbons, a box of pictures and mementos, and a box of other trinkets and miscellaneous items. You can also theme your boxes by years. Most people serve four or more years in the military. Consider making a box for each of the years you served.


Another good idea for theming boxes is to organize items from each location to which you were deployed. This is a great way to fondly remember the various places you’ve lived during your time in the military. Finally, if you’re putting together a military shadow box for a loved one who served in the military during a war, you can theme the box for that point in history. Maybe a parent or grandparent served in World War II. You can make that the theme of the box and if you only have a few items specific to your relative, you can include general information about the war, such as newspaper clippings.

Make Sure It’s Durable

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The last thing you want to make sure you do if you’re putting together a military shadow box is to make sure whatever you create is durable and protected from the elements. Chances are you’ll keep the box indoors, in a home or maybe your workspace.

However, it’s imperative you consider all of the possibilities that could endanger the box and do what you can to protect the items inside. Also, make sure you choose archival items to use with the box so the box itself doesn’t put any of the items at risk.