At a loss for what to get the service member or veteran in your life this holiday season? Tired of the fake smile you get when they unwrap another coffee cup or water bottle with a service-branch emblem on it?
Military Times has you covered with our annual list of gear and other goodies made by veteran-owned and/or -operated businesses. Here’s all you need to get shopping; all images are courtesy of the manufacturer unless otherwise noted, and some manufacturers may offer Black Friday or other online deals that may drop the listed price for their items:
SMELL OF SUCCESS
What: The “Salt Dog” soap bar.
Why: One of eight signature scents in the K Bar Soap Co.’s roster, this one is “something Chesty himself would be proud to use,” said Chris McKinney, a Marine veteran and the company’s owner. Tea tree oil gives this exfoliating bar its power — and being shaped like a grenade doesn’t hurt, either.
Bonus: Not up for Salt Dog? McKinney’s “Napalm in the AM” bar offers citrus aromas.
How much: $11.99.
Deal: Service members and veterans can use “VETERAN10” at checkout for a 10 percent discount.
HIT THE LINKS
What: The BAMF golf bag.
Why: Bag-maker TactiCool (co-owned by an active-duty airman) lives up to its name with a product covered in MOLLE webbing, allowing for all manner of customization. Even the pouches that come with the bag are removable. Choose from multiple military-themed colors depending on the model, including olive drab, coyote brown and “stealth black.”
Bonus: Diagonal webbing lets golfers mount a cellphone or camera so the bag serves as a tripod — capture your swing for analysis, or send footage from a warm day on the course to your friend stationed in Alaska.
How much: $269 for the standard version. Pre-customized variants, put together by hand, can double that figure.
Deal: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with proof of service (past or present) and receive a discount code good for 10 percent off at checkout.
What: Bang Bang Ballistic Jewelry keychains.
Why: The company, founded by Afghanistan war veteran Shanna Rodenberg, uses hammered bullet casings to create unique jewelry options. They can also serve as memorials — send in spent casings from a loved one’s three-volley funeral salute and have them personalized with stamping or engraving.
Bonus: Seeking something more decorative? Check out stud bullet earrings, available in multiple calibers with a choice of Swarovski crystals ($20).
How much: $30 for a basic keychain, but prices may vary with customization.
Deal: Email email@example.com with proof of service for a 15 percent discount code.
MAKE YOUR PANCAKES PATRIOTIC
What: Leadslingers JP-8 syrup.
Why: You may never find the perfect wine or beer for the alcohol snobs on your shopping list, but this bottle will stand apart: Dark maple syrup aged at least two months in a whiskey barrel, ready for deployment onto the nearest pancake or waffle.
Bonus: Fans of the veteran-made horror-comedy “Range 15” will recall the prominent role of Leadslingers Whiskey in stopping the zombie apocalypse. It’s unclear whether those properties translate into the company’s nonalcoholic offerings, but better safe than sorry.
How much: $19.
What: The Pocket Shelf.
Why: Have a friend with a small workspace? Know someone who is always losing his phone or her keys? Don’t want your spouse to put holes in the wall of your rented apartment? Designed by a Marine Corps veteran, The Pocket Shelf mounts with a non-damaging adhesive and gives you the perfect 4-by-6-inch place to store small, important items away from office clutter, toddlers or other hazards.
Bonus: Extra adhesive strips are included for frequent travelers. It’ll mount to drywall, metal and even glass.
How much: $9.99.
Deal: Use the code “HONOR” at checkout for a 25 percent military discount.
What: Strike Force Energy beverage enhancer.
Why: Step away from the calorie-laden cans at your local convenience mart and grab a 6-milliliter packet of liquid eye-opener that’ll turn any half-liter drink into an energy drink. The calorie-free contents include caffeine and B vitamins, and come in original, lemon, orange and grape flavors. It’s the perfect gift for the adrenaline junkie who has everything … except enough adrenaline.
Bonus: Co-founded by a former Navy SEAL, the company launched its enhancer in late 2016 and was among the top new energy drinks on Amazon.com.
How much: $9.99 for a 10-pack.
Where: www.StrikeForceEnergy.com. Also at some 7-Eleven stores.
Deal: Use the code “military” at checkout for a 20 percent discount.
FLOP IN STYLE
What: Combat Flip Flops’ Men’s Floperator Coyote.
Why: Not every situation calls for combat boots or running shoes. This footwear, from a company founded by two Army Rangers, offers a combat-boot rubber outsole and a place on the nylon strap for customizable patches — included with the purchase are patches that proudly label the flip-flops “bad for running” and “worse for fighting.”
Bonus: Buy any Combat Flip-Flops item, and the company pledges to fund a day of secondary schooling for a girl in Afghanistan. And wounded warriors are covered thanks to a free retrofit strap that allows their flip-flops to be worn on a prosthetic foot.
How much: $27.99.
Deal: Sign up for the company’s email list prior to purchase and get 15 percent off.
What: The Bungee Weapon Retention Strap.
Why: From Vel Tye, a tactical-gear company started by a retired Navy chief, this strap will secure a weapon without restricting movement, thanks to its bungee material. It’ll attach to any MOLLE setup and works with single- and two-point slings. It’s a great gift for the gear-lover.
Bonus: Available in black, coyote brown and “Ranger” colors. Need a gift for someone who’s mostly standing still at the range? Consider Vel Tye’s E/P Keeper ($10) to help him or her secure ear protection between rounds.
How much: $35.
Deal: Enter “MILITARYTIMES” as a coupon code and get $5 off the strap.
SCENT OF SERVICE
What: The Armed Forces Soy Candle.
Why: Made by hand by former Marine Jessica Kistner, owner of Jessica’s Find & Refine based in Napa, California, this clean-burning candle comes with a patriotic design and the name of a service member or veteran, plus a brief bio. Kistner, who left service in 2015 and started her business in January 2017, can also customize an order for your own service member or veteran … or as a tribute to a Marine Corps icon like Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller, for example.
Bonus: Choose your scent from a variety of offerings on Kistner’s website, and send it as an “additional note” on your online order. Among her favorites: Christmas Hearth and Snickerdoodle, a year-round best-seller.
How much: $18.
COMFORT ON THE HUNT
What: A Gunnison Soft Shell Jacket.
Why: From SIXSITE, founded by a former Navy SEAL, this brushed-fleece jacket works as an early-season item, and can be up-armored with more insulation for winter hunts. Water-repellent and designed for quiet movement, it adds some stealth along with comfort and protection.
Bonus: Try the brushed-fleece pants with the same exclusive camouflage design.
How much: $224.99 (jacket); $179.99 (pants).
Deal: Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details on a 15 percent discount available to active-duty military and veterans.
MOM LOVES A MARINE
What: A Marine Heart pendant.
Why: Leathernecks can tell Mom how much she means to them with a 1-inch-tall heart surrounding an eagle, globe and anchor. It’s one of several custom-made Marine Corps offerings from MarineCorpsRings.com, owned by a Marine veteran whose work covers multiple jewelry styles … and the other services.
How much: Pendant prices vary by metal and chain length. Get a sterling silver Marine Heart for about $140, or up your game to 14-karat gold ($435.99).
What: A subscription to Silver Star Coffee’s monthly delivery service.
Why: If you need a reason to give a friend or family member free coffee in the morning, you’re probably not trying hard enough. Instead of them stopping off for an expensive flavor-shotted monstrosity, this Costa Rican coffee (roasted in the U.S.A.) is delivered once a month. It works out to about 50 cents a cup.
Bonus: Available in medium, light and dark roast.
How much: $12.99 per month.
Deal: Founded by an Air Force veteran, there’s no special military pricing at Silver Star, but 8 percent of all sales go to a military-related charity of the buyer’s choice.
MEMORY MEETS MASONRY
What: A commemorative brick on the “Path of Remembrance” at the National Museum of the U.S. Army.
Why: The veteran, Army civilian, military unit or other honoree will have a permanent place at the museum, set to open at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, in 2019. The cost of the brick itself is tax-deductible (replica bricks and related items don’t qualify).
Bonus: Gift certificates are also available, allowing the recipient to customize a pre-paid brick. Order by Dec. 7 to guarantee Christmas delivery. Replica bricks likely won’t arrive to be placed under the tree, but frame-able certificates of purchase will be sent out two to four weeks after purchase.
How much: $250 for a 4-by-8-inch brick, $500 for an 8-by-8.
Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.