Several months ago I met a combat-decorated Special Forces veteran who is a stay-at-home dad—and a knitter! After following him on Instagram, I learned more about his personal story and his business.
Several veterans are finding personal and financial fulfillment as small business owners. Christmas is the perfect time to shop with them. Not just because they’re veterans, but also because they are making quality products.
Their main product is hand-knitted skullcaps, called “Meanies.” Combat-wounded veterans, Green Berets, cancer fighters, soldiers, and caregivers for the combat wounded knit every single hat. There are a variety of hats, as well as custom hats you can have made with team colors, school colors, or special occasions like this one to commemorate a Vietnam veteran.
You’re not just getting a great product, but also supporting a great cause. Kevin, who was wounded in a helicopter accident in Iraq, and his wife Alicia, a breast cancer survivor, donate proceeds to Camp Kesem, a free summer camp for children who have family members battling cancer.
J.R. Salzman is an Iraq War veteran, amputee, and championship lumberjack. His products include beautiful cutting and bread boards, cribbage boards, and customized growth charts on wood. Every item is made from fallen urban trees. Pieces are made from cherry, red oak, eucalyptus (my favorite), maple, walnut, and others.
Sisters Emily and Betsy founded this handbag and accessories company. Emily is an officer in the U.S. Army. The term “sword and plough” is from the saying “to turn swords into plough shares.” They say its meaning is “to take military technologies and materials and apply them to peaceful civilian applications.” Ten percent of profits go to veteran organizations. I am coveting the Camo Signature Zip Top Tote Bag.
This company sells grooming products for men. These are great gifts for the scruffy man in your life. The packaging is cool, and no one will accuse him of being a metrosexual or hipster.
The company founder and owner says, “Caveman Apothecary started because my wife got tired of my scratchy beard and my um…less than optimal grooming habits. I guess when you spend your entire career as a soldier in the field with the benefit of relaxed grooming standards, you don’t think too much about whether or not your beard is soft…or if your skin is moisturized.”
5. R. Riveter
Military spouses started this company to help provide flexible and mobile employment as their families move around from place to place. A military spouse makes each bag. I especially love their Limited Edition line because those items are made with curated and donated military materials, including retired uniforms, canvas shelters, tent liners and wool blankets.
They sell quickly, so if you want a gift by Christmas, check out the other collections. After purchasing your bag, you can even read about the woman who made it! I have the Grant canvas and leather tote bag.
This company employs more than 200 veterans and patriots. According to their website, “You don’t have to be a Veteran to wear Grunt Style, but you do have to love Freedom, Bacon and Whiskey.” One standout is their women’s fitness line. Items aren’t overpriced like other lines (:cough: Lululemon) and they offer a wide range of sizes.
I am not a coffee drinker, but I’ve recommended this company to many people based solely on their hilarious videos. My favorite is “Jump Master Dad.” Whenever companies like Keurig or Starbucks make some political misstep, I see a lot of my friends recommend Black Rifle Coffee. Their coffee is imported from Columbia and Brazil and is “premium small-batch, roast to order.”
8. Books by Veterans
This could be a mile-long list. Here are just a few books I’ve read or are on my reading list for the future.
- “Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan,” by Sean Parnell.
- “A Guide To Improvised Weaponry: How to Protect Yourself with WHATEVER You’ve Got,” by Terry Schappert.
- “Indian Country,” by Kurt Schlichter.
- “Blown Away: The Story of SSGT Johnny Joey Jones Adult Coloring Book.
- The Deserters,” by Charles Glass.
- “Left Standing: The Miraculous Story of How Mason Wells’s Faith Survived the Boston, Paris, and Brussels Terror Attacks,” by Mason Wells, Tyler Beddoes, and Billy Hallowell.
I know there are a lot of other veteran-owned businesses and books out there, so please share your favorites in the comments!