15 Simple Things to Do With Your Service Member

If you’re like me you probably have a bucket list of things you want to do in life. My husband and I first created one of things we want to do together before his first deployment to Iraq. Initially, I had dreams of grandeur about lavish romantic getaways and Italian cruises, but our budget didn’t support my fantasy world (though I still have my bucket list). What’s the use of throwing it away? It’s after all a “bucket” list, right?

I’ve learned though to be more realistic and have found that some of the best memories blossom closer to home.  For my husband and I, the whole point of our list is to develop bonds and tangible memories without excessive expense. We think beyond long walks and cozy dinners and over the years have found more creative avenues.

If you have a bucket list but are looking for some simple things that are inexpensive and that you can do now and during deployment, here’s a list of some old, new and favorites to get those creative juices flowing.

15 inexpensive (old, new, and favorite) things to do now and during deployment: 

1. Exchange hand-written letters (if your cursive is like mine, then it resembles a doctor’s prescription scribble). My soldier can (maybe) read every couple of sentences, but he still loves receiving letters.

2. Trade meaningful items and small keepsakes you can carry in a wallet or pocketbook. My husband gave me a jade stone with “purpose” inscribed on it. It has multiple meanings for us.

3. Have a “creations night” with the kids and write poems, make cards with glitter, crayons, markers, and exchange them. Once your soldier deploys, create new ones and send in care packages.

4. Build a collage or make a memory album and have fun with photo caption graphics. Craft stores such as Michael’s and Hobby Lobby have cool packets with pre-printed captions for different occasions.

5. Create a special mementos box and include those old concert tickets from your first date or promise rings, baby pictures, flowers and identification tags. The best part is you include the things that have special meaning to you and your loved one.

6. Store wilting roses upside down in a cool dark place until dried and include the petals in your treasure box. Spray your Soldier’s favorite fragrance in the box. I have an ornamental bowl and use it as a centerpiece; it has several years (pre-marriage, too) of dried petals/roses from my solider.

7. Rent all your favorite movies (trilogies make for lots of fun) and settle in for a long weekend before he or she leaves. We’ve watched the Bourne series, Lord of the Rings and of course my favorite gushy, girly movies that we simply mush watch together. Hey, it’s a tradeoff.

8. Pick a favorite dish or try new ones that you can cook together. Create your own twist on meals and give recipes a special name. My husband’s favorite pasts dish is from deployment #1. Can you guest the name of it? It’s super creative and has the letter D and #1 in it.

9. Plant a small tree in the backyard and take turns nurturing and pruning it. It could be a perennial that blooms in time for your Soldier’s return home.

10. Build something together like that memento box (from #5), or even a shelf to put your box and memory album on display.

11. Renew your vows at a private home ceremony. This can be a two-for-one: ceremony and going away get-together with your closest friends and family, or just you guys and the kids.

12. Build a private world of words. Develop a secret language (e.g. visual and body language or a look) that you can share in the middle of a crowded room without anyone else knowing what it is. Even use it in email and phone conversations during deployment. Our favorite code is F&AD+5. Whenever my husband and I say this this we know it means we’ll love each other forever and a day, plus five minutes (for good measure—you know, just in case forever runs out).

13. That good old dinner by candlelight thing still works wonders. It works after deployment too. Last week I cooked a new meal (with place settings, candles, etc.,) just because and surprised my soldier. I’d planned it a week before. Turns out he had a rough day that day (I scoured major brownie points because it was supposed to be his night to cook, too).

14. This one’s a no brainer: date night. Before his second deployment we planned to see a movie and have dinner every week (the last month) before he departed. It’s turned into a ritual. Now once a week (or month—whatever you can afford), we cook dinner or go for a cheap bite to eat, then hit the movies. If you have kids and no babysitter, chose something they can see and make it a family event.

15. Do nothing at all. Yup, just put on your PJ’s cuddle up and watch television, listen to music, talk to each other or simply be quiet. It doesn’t cost anything but quality time.


Do you have a bucket list? If so, do you have your own or do you share one with your spouse or partner? What are some of the creative and unique things on your list? Have you found that items you can caress, smell, and taste carry you through months of deployment?

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