One of the best ways for people to honor the Vietnam veterans in their families is to create a shadow box that can display all the ribbons, medals, and memories they brought home with them.
Whether you’re gifting or displaying it to commemorate a veteran loved one who has passed, shadow boxes are perfect for telling their story and putting it on prominent display.
But putting together the perfect shadow box can be a bit overwhelming. After all, if you want to honor their story, you’ll want to make sure you get it right and that you don’t miss a thing. To help you do that, we’ve created this collection of Vietnam shadow box ideas to help you create a checklist and get a head start on the perfect gift idea for a veteran or a loved one of a veteran.
Shadow Box Ideas: Picking the Right One
If you’re unfamiliar with what a shadow box is, it’s like a picture frame that has more depth so that it’s able to hold more than just an image. Shadow boxes can be made to display small garments, photographs, trinkets, keepsakes, and more to help preserve memories and tell a story.
Picking out the perfect shadow box will mostly be a matter of your taste, but when properly honoring the courage of a Vietnam veteran, it may be best to go with something simple and tasteful that doesn’t stand out too much. Darker wood frames tend to fit the tone of a military shadow box well.
You’ll also want to consider the size. Ask yourself what you’d like to display in the shadow box, then try to create a rough layout of those things to get the basic measurements of the materials you’ll need.
What to Include in the Vietnam Shadow Box
To create the perfect Vietnam Veterans Day gift for your loved one, you will want to ensure you’ve collected their entire story in their shadow box. Items in the box include medals, ribbons, badges, insignia, and any little memento that captures their service.
However, your loved one may not still have all of these items in their possession, or you may not want to ruin the surprise by asking for them.
If this is the case for you, you can always order Vietnam medals and other awards for display. If you don’t know which medals and awards to order, you can check your loved one’s discharge papers (also referred to as DD-214), and you’ll be able to see everything they earned during their service.
To purchase higher valor awards that your loved one earned, you’ll need to prove it with a photograph, newspaper clipping, newspaper article, or an image of their discharge papers before ordering. These awards include the Air Force Cross Medal, Navy Cross, Silver Star, and others.
Medals earned during the Vietnam War are not only representative of an achievement, but they also tell a story that most civilians could never fully understand. Displaying those Vietnam medals in a shadow box is a way of respectfully sharing that story.
While there are various medals that a Vietnam veteran could have been awarded, there are some that almost all of them received, including:
The Vietnam Service Medal (VSM)
If your loved one served for either 30 consecutive or 60 nonconsecutive days in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, or Laos between 1965 and 1973, they earned the Vietnam Service Medal. Sometimes bronze stars were mounted on the ribbon depending on the campaign they served.
The Vietnam Campaign Medal (VCM)
If your loved one served six months supporting the Republic of Vietnam in their military operations between 1961 and 1973, they earned the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. This medal was actually created by the Vietnamese government and authorized in 1966 for U.S. troops to wear.
Ribbons are a concise way to display all the various details of a veteran’s service. They represent medals of valor, good conduct medals, the number of campaigns served, and foreign awards. These ribbons may also contain attachments and devices that expound on the veteran’s achievements.
Adding badges to your shadow box won’t just display your loved one’s achievements but will also help establish their identity within the military. Badges are to identify military personnel and signify their accomplishments, qualifications, and more.
For example, if a veteran were a parachutist, they would have received a parachutist badge. If they were accomplished marksmen, they’d have received a marksmanship badge.
A military insignia identifies what branch your loved one served in and their rank. They’re most often worn on the collar or shoulder of the uniform, depending on what type of insignia they are. If you know your loved one’s branch and rank, you should be able to identify the correct insignia for your shadow box quickly.
Although the medals, ribbons, and badges your loved one received can do a great job of telling the story of their service, you can add even more depth to your shadow box by adding some personal effects. Photographs of them while they were serving, dog tags, postcards, and other items they kept from Vietnam can help to round out the perfect gift and make it truly special.
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