The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide to Support Our Veterans
In honor of the brave men and women who serve our country, consider buying your holiday gifts from these amazing veteran-owned companies.
Combat Flip Flops
Friends and business partners Matthew Griffin and Donald Lee served multiple tours in Afghanistan as members of the U.S. Army Special Operations forces in the 75th Ranger Regiment. But once their active duty days were behind them, they sought to create a better “path to peace.” To support veterans as well as people in war-torn countries, their company, Combat Flip Flops, creates shoes from locally sourced products in conflict zones, and uses the proceeds to fund education for Afghan women, dismantle crack cartels in Colombia, clear landmines in Laos, and employ veterans stateside.
Here are some other simple ways to support veterans.
Before U.S. Air Force veteran Tim Scott and his wife created their company, they were compelled to give out socks and other products via their car window to the homeless population in Austin, Texas. But the more they handed out, the greater they realized the need in their community was. In an effort to take action and make a difference, they founded their company Mitscoot Outfitters with a “get, give, employ” social enterprise business plan to help create job opportunities for the homeless while also providing the gear they need to get back on their feet. They’re all made in the USA, and you can choose beanies, gloves, backpacks, and more.
Here’s what America’s troops want you to know.
Iron Mountain Designs
After 14 years in the Air Force, with 21 deployments for Special Operation missions, Salt Lake City resident, entrepreneur, and veteran, Joshua Vandenbrink decided to turn over a new leaf. Or rather, wood. He had always dreamed of owning a fabrication business, and the inspiration was easy: Why not create a patriotic online shop for those who want something more than a flag for their home? Enter: Iron Mountain Designs, which offers beautiful hand-forged steel and hand-carved wooden flags. As another impressive feat, shortly after he created his business, Vandenbrink was set with a new obstacle—a traumatic brain injury, causing him to have to re-learn how to create his flags. Two years later, he has not only overcome this setback but far exceeded it, now offering custom furnishings and decor.
You won’t believe this heartwarming story of a veteran who gave back.
No matter where you live, a fleece pullover or jacket is a standby in any closet. But for United States Army Green Beret and Special Forces veteran Tom Spooner, the idea of creating his clothing company, Warrior’s Heart, had to also help his fellow soldiers. Proceeds from the Men’s Micro Fleece Jacket support the Warrior’s Heart Foundation, which helps to supplement insurance cost for the common issues that veterans face after leaving the service, from addiction and PTSD to mild TBI and other recurring symptoms. A little bit goes a long way, especially since Americans lose more soldiers at home than in combat.
Black Rifle Coffee Company Canada
For Evan Hafer, a veteran in the U.S. Army in the 19th Special Forces Group, and pal Darren Weeks, the military was a family affair, since both of their grandfathers served in World War II and the Korean War. After their time in the service, they decided to create the premium-roast Canadian coffee company that supplies a much-needed early A.M. pick-me-up and also supports charity. Though they took their business to another country, the sentiment of helping one another remains in full force. After all, every purchase from Black Rifle Coffee Company Canada helps support Little Warriors, an organization that’s dedicated to the awareness, prevention, and treatment of child sexual abuse across Canada. Supporting veterans is simple, but it has a powerful effect.
After being enlisted in the Massachusetts Army National Guard in 1997, Jessica Brown graduated from West Point and was commissioned in the Army in 2005. With several years of service under her belt, she decided to leave and pursue another passion—for wood carving. She created an online store and Etsy shop affectionately named Wood Thingamajigs. Here, you can choose from an assortment of kitchen and home goodies, including one-of-a-kind cutting boards made with maple, walnut, padauk, and more.
For 26 years, Daniel Garcia was a proud officer in the United States Navy, where he held a number of high-ranking, tactical leadership positions. Once he retired and claimed his veteran status, he decided to found his own company and create a novel concept—Sipsee. As the name suggests, these patented, BPA-free, portable, and customizable bottle stoppers fit into water, beer, wine, and other bottles. He hopes to shift the “throwaway” culture to reduce the amount of wasted water and the plastic that trashes our oceans.
If you love the ocean, check out these intimate pictures of sea creatures large and small.
At the age of 18, Taneisha Phillips joined the United States Army, completing tours in South Carolina, Virginia, Kansas, and an overseas mission in Korea. But in 2003 she decided to join the Florida National Guard for two years, and begin her company—Earth’s Organics. Creating certified organic, natural and eco-friendly products, her soaps, washes, and more moisturize, lather, and are gentle for every skin type, making the products an ideal stuffer for every stocking on your mantle. Check out these other natural beauty swaps you’ll want to make.
Donald Coolidge spent eight and a half years in the U.S. Marine Corps, complete with an assignment in Iraq. Once he retired, he decided to create the STEMosaur, a customizable toy that doubles as a learning companion for children. It features many of the classic elements of the CogniToys Dino, but adds a hands-on approach to stimulate and engage kiddos. Specifically, it introduces the concepts behind STEM and coding lessons, allowing them to build their new bestie from building pieces and then connect it to WiFi, where STEMosaur will actually engage in conversation. Perfect for the aspiring female engineer!
Fire Department Coffee
After four years in the United States Navy, Luke Schneider had a wild idea: Why not combine bourbon with coffee and call it the best cup of all? So that’s what he did, using a unique proprietary infusion process that’s the first of its kind. Put a bag under the tree to give the gift of coffee-meets-the-sweet-smoothness-of-bourbon. And hey, if there are other flavors you—or those on your holiday list—crave? No worries. Fire Department Coffee has plenty of varieties. Check out these tricks for making your coffee healthier.
The Paper Hatchet
As a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan and an infantry officer in the United States Army, Don Kingston knows how to handle pressure. But when a friend was deserving of a thoughtful congratulatory gift for a promotion and he didn’t like any of the card options he found, he decided to start his own. The Paper Hatchet is a paper supply company geared toward men, featuring smart, simple graphics, and clean lines—ideal for many occasions. Consider gifting this to your college-aged kid who still needs to write the occasional thank-you note. (Here’s how to write the perfect thank-you note, while you’re at it.)
Sword & Plough
Former U.S. Army Captain Emily Nunez Cavness was graduated from Airborne School, served in the 4th Engineer Battalion and the 10th Special Forces Group, was deployed to Afghanistan, and was one of the first 100 women to try out for the Army’s Ranger Training Assessment Course. After she left the service, she used all that hard work and determination to co-found Sword & Plough. As the CEO of this accessories company, Cavness is inspired to create custom, unique bags and jewelry that feature elements of her former gear, including aircraft insulation surplus, vintage canteen form, chains, and more.
Is there anything easier to pick up last-minute to fill stockings or add on top of a gift than beauty buys? Yep: A skincare brand that works to fight against aging and was created by former United States Navy officer, Dr. Carl Thornfeldt. From their facial cream to their eye cream, each product from Epionce features a special formula that bids your wrinkles and lines farewell. These are the everyday habits that make your skin look younger.
Organize My Drawer
For more than 21 years, Wayne Qualkinbush served as a Naval Flight Officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. Once he retired, he created a company with his wife Andrea, that melded the engineering and software design skills his military and post-military career taught him. Together, this dynamic duo—who raised a family and managed a household during several military deployments—created a company that solves the riddle of everyone’s junk drawer. Organize My Drawer is an online service that creates custom organization hacks for any space. Gift recipients simply measure the space and then design their organizers to match their exact needs with the company’s intuitive online design tool. These are the genius organization ideas you’ll wish you knew all along.