5 ways to preserve your military memories
(Photo: U.S. Air Force, Jonathan Bell)

It doesn’t matter who you are. This thing called life — or “the struggle bus,” depending on the day — is going by pretty quickly. Try as you might, you just don’t have time to stop and smell the roses (because allergies, and also because where even are the roses in December?).

If you’re a military family, you probably feel like it’s flying by even faster.

Why? Because you’re busy, dang it!

But in spite of the unique challenges, circumstances and perpetual busyness that life inevitably presents (and often because of the unique challenges and circumstances), the journey of your military family abounds with moments worth remembering. Whether your service member is committed for four years or plans to serve 40, the years deserve to be documented.

Thus we present this comprehensive list of creative ways to preserve memories from your family’s time with the military. (And by comprehensive I mean five. Five ways.)

1. The PCS quilt

With each PCS, snag a t-shirt repping the name of your duty station. You can find them in the PX, likely any gas station and the local Wal-Mart — you won’t be able to miss it. I typically make a point of getting mine as soon as we arrive, because in the craziness of out-processing at the end of your time you’re likely to forget. Eventually, you can use the t-shirts and some of your service member’s old uniforms to create a quilt that will warm your heart just as much as it warms your body as you take a trip down memory lane with each use. If you’ve already moved on from multiple duty stations in the past, don’t worry — Amazon Prime/a quick Google search will have you covered. Check out these instructions for creating a t-shirt quilt for beginners.

Tip: You can also use t-shirts from military events, other military-related t-shirts your spouse has or anything else that holds memories for you!

2. House key ornaments

Another tradition that I personally uphold is the house key ornament. Cheap, quick, easy, and requiring zero creativity (i.e. perfect for me), this is a great way to track the different homes your family has lived in with a festive way to display! You can make your own clay, or you can buy a little square of Sculpey, shape into a circle, poke a hole in the top (I used the cap of a pen) and leave the imprint of your house key. Once it’s dried or baked, use a permanent marker to label it. You can write the address, the years you lived there or any other label of your choosing. Tie a ribbon through the hole, and voilá! Mine was done within 15 minutes the same day we found out we were moving. For more pictures and step-by-step instructions, check out this tutorial.

3. Framed map art

Another great way to display the different places you’ve lived is by framing a map. For military families, the places we’ve called home have played a large part in shaping who each of us has become. Keep your many different “homes” on display by either printing a map or buying a cheap atlas, and cutting out the chunk of the map showing the city where you lived. You can cut it into the shape of the state, a heart or whatever works for you. Use a “floating frame” or small square frames to display your maps. If you’re feeling creative, place a heart sticker over the city or label each map with the years you lived there.

4. Upcycled uniforms

Turn some of your service member’s old uniforms into lifelong keepsakes, such as this military uniform throw pillow. Follow these directions on how to create a cover for a throw pillow, and cut your fabric pieces from a uniform. Make sure to give yourself an inch or two of space surrounding the parts of the uniform that you want to seen on the pillow case — otherwise it will get sewn into the seams. You can also use an old uniform to create a military-themed cover for a photo album or scrapbook using this tutorial.

5. Memory boxes

If you’re not into crafting, this last one’s for you! For each duty station, get a box and label it with your location. After that, all you have to do is throw your stuff in it! Seriously. Photos, ceremony invitations and programs, unit patches, movie tickets, letters and postcards and more can be put straight in the box. Create one for each duty station, and years down the road you will have a perfectly organized look back at your family’s time in the military. Zero crafting required — guaranteed.

Keeping track of your family’s memories across the years isn’t always easy, and as a military family, you have plenty of memories to track!

By Amanda Haworth,

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