(Photo: US Marines, Lance Cpl. Corey Dabney)

What is the best way to thank a military spouse for the way they handle the unique challenges of military life? With presents. (A hug works, too, but I don’t know anyone who would turn down gifts!) Wouldn’t it be great if there was a day for military spouses to receive care packages?

It turns out, there is! Every year, Military Spouse Appreciation Day is celebrated on the Friday before Mother’s Day, with Military Spouse Appreciation Month throughout the whole month of May. Military Spouse Appreciation Month is a good time to celebrate the often unrecognized sacrifices of military spouses, who work quietly in the background supporting their service members. 

What do military spouses want most in their care packages?

Most spouses we know would vote for one of the following:

  1. “The best box I could receive during deployment would be one where my spouse jumps out and surprises me!”
  2. “Wine… liquor… any alcohol, really. With a cute cup to drink it.”
  3. “Gift cards. We can always use more money.”

Here’s what different military spouses actually need in a care package

Just as care packages for deployed troops overseas can have a mixture of fun things (candy or snacks) and useful things (socks), a care package for a military spouse can have a combination of fun and useful gifts. If you are making a care package for Military Spouse Appreciation Day, be creative. You could include a penny for a symbol of good luck or rubber bands to help them stay flexible. A potted plant can remind them to “bloom where they are planted” and put down roots at a new duty station.

What you put in the gift ultimately depends on the person who will receive it. After all, military spouses are a diverse group of individuals. Here are some ideas to get you started. (We are partially kidding, but most of these would actually come in handy!)

For the military spouse who is also a mom

  • Food, preferably dinner–something she can eat with one hand while feeding the kids
  • Wine
  • Rubber bands and erasers, so she can always stay flexible and fix mistakes
  • A gift certificate to a spa, accompanied with an offer to babysit the kids

For the working military spouse

  • A nice bag or purse to hold all the responsibilities they juggle
  • Wine
  • Scented candles, to celebrate the way they will “keep the home fires burning” during deployment
  • A gift certificate for a pedicure, accompanied with an offer to watch the dogs or kids
  • Gift cards for shoes, a favorite restaurant, or gas for the car

For the male military spouse

  • Being a male spouse can be lonely. . . an invite to a community event or a play date with the kids could be a meaningful gesture
  • Beer… or wine
  • Movies or music for entertainment during deployments
  • Gift certificates for his favorite stores or hobbies

For a young military spouse

  • A good quality toolbox… for when things inevitably break during deployments
  • A planner. . . and a pencil, so they can always change plans
  • Wine
  • Command strips and tools, to hang pictures or curtains in all the houses they will move into
  • Subscription to a home food delivery service (like Blue Apron) while they learn how navigate deployment
  • Gift cards for Starbucks or Ikea

For a seasoned spouse

  • A journal, to record all they have seen and learned
  • Wine
  • Picture frames and photo albums to collect all their memories
  • Duct tape, to celebrate all the things they have fixed and the way they hold the family together
  • A gift certificate for the hair salon, with an offer to watch the kids or dogs

Every military spouse has their own way of facing the twists and turns of military life. No matter who you are or what you are facing right now, we celebrate all those brave, strong, loyal, trailblazing military spouses who can always find a reason to laugh. You make this community so supportive and fun. Every one of you deserves your own care package, but we may have to settle and just say thank you with a virtual hug. During this Military Spouse Appreciation Month, we thank you, military spouse, and wish you the best.

Lizann Lightfoot is a Marine Corps spouse. Read more from Lizann at