With well over 2 million service members, including Reserves and National Guard personnel, the US Military is one of the largest military forces in the world. Its branches—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Space Force and Coast Guard—have their own specific missions and cultures, but they all share a pride and dedication to serving the United States.
Joining the military is a commitment like no other, whether someone’s in for a few years or a lifetime career. It’s important to service members and their families to feel support from their fellow Americans.
And while each branch (and the military as a whole) is a tight-knit family of its own, the unique nature of their work can cause servicemen and servicewomen to feel a sense of isolation from the larger population.
So whether you share a close relationship with someone in the US military and wish to maintain a strong connection or you’re someone who simply wishes to show appreciation or support to our service members, you’ll find examples of what to write to military personnel that will resonate with your recipient.
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Helpful tip: While serving in the military does come with certain challenges, generally speaking, it’s best to keep any messages to service members positive, encouraging and comforting. It’s certainly OK to address hardships, particularly if yours is a close relationship, but words that uplift can be especially welcome.
Joining the military is an enormous milestone achievement, filled with a lot of emotion.
Here are three paths one can take to join the US armed forces.
Enlistment: US citizens and Legal Permanent Residents with a high school diploma or GED who meet other requirements can enlist in any branch of service. After enlistment, the recruit will attend 7-12 weeks of basic training, sometimes referred to as boot camp. After boot camp, additional training will take place, but graduating basic training is a big deal.
Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) or Officer Candidate School (OCS; Officer Training School or OTS in the Air Force): High school and college students can participate in ROTC in exchange for a college scholarship followed by military service upon graduation. Eligible graduates of a four-year college can apply to OCS/OTS for officer training and upon graduation will begin their service as a commissioned officer.
US Military Academies: US citizens between 17 and 23 can apply to one of the major US military academies and become a cadet (US Military Academy—also called West Point, US Air Force Academy, US Coast Guard Academy) or a midshipman (US Naval Academy). Graduates commit to serving in the armed forces for at least 5 years in most cases. Admittance to a military academy requires a nomination from a member of Congress or the Vice President of the US.
However someone joins the service, their commitment and new career path deserve congratulations.
Congratulations on Enlistment, Basic Training and Graduation
Whether someone has just enlisted, is in basic training or is graduating from their training detail, there’s a lot you can say.
- “Congratulations on joining a proud American tradition.”
- “The (branch of service) is lucky to have a recruit like you.”
- “This is a big step into a successful military future.”
- “You did it, Recruit, and you should be proud.”
- “What you learn in the military will serve you for the rest of your life. Congratulations on joining the (branch of service).”
- “You’re joining a long family tradition of service. We’re all so very proud of you.”
Congratulations on ROTC or OCS/OTS Graduation
- “Answering the call to serve as a military officer deserves thanks and congrats.”
- “Congratulations on your commission as a US (branch of service) Officer. I/we know you’ll do us proud.”
- “You put in a lot of time and work. Thanks, and congratulations on your commission.”
- “Congratulations on your graduation, Officer Awesome. Amazing job.”
Congratulations on Acceptance into a Military Academy
The US military academies are some of the most prestigious higher education schools in the nation. For a young person to start their military career at one is a tremendous accomplishment—one that will require continued hard work from day one through graduation. Here are some messages to support a military academy student.
- “You’ll fit in perfectly with (academy’s) tradition of excellence.”
- “Being accepted to the academy and the military deserves both congratulations and thanks.”
- “From the time you first dreamed of attending the (academy), you understood the commitment you were making to hard work, study and service. Your dedication has paid off—congratulations!”
- “We’re so proud of the work you’ve done to earn this honor and look forward to the great things you’ll achieve. Congratulations on receiving your Certificate of Appointment to (academy).”
Congratulations on Military Academy Graduation
- “By graduating from (Academy name), you’ve become part of a long and storied military tradition.”
- “You’ve worked hard and served well at (Academy name), and now it all pays off. Congrats.”
- “Congrats to you and to all your fellow cadets/midshipmen.”
- “You’ve been a great cadet—you’ll be a great officer.”
Deployment can be an emotional time for service members. Excitement is often a part of it—but some of the changes can cause uneasiness. They might be heading to unfamiliar locations, leaving family behind and getting assignments that put them in danger.
Prior to deployment, service members will receive their orders, and “normal life” can change rapidly. Mission-specific briefings and training will begin, medical evaluations may take place and, of course, family members and friends will learn about the imminent move. For these reasons, the time leading up to a deployment can be stressful.
So when military personnel are deployed, caring notes like these may be appreciated.
- “Wishing you nothing but the best on your mission.”
- “You’ll be in a lot of people’s thoughts, prayers and hearts while you’re over there.”
- “You and your unit are strong, brave, trained and skilled. You got this.”
- “While you’re deployed, please remember how grateful we are for your service.”
- “You’ll be missed, but we know we’ll see you again.”
- “You take care of things over there—and we’ll take care of things over here until you get back.”
Read a Prayer for Military Families from DaySpring.
Helpful tip: Members of the armed forces serve the United States of America under their commander in chief, the President of the United States. Though voting citizens themselves, they’ve committed to fulfilling whatever service or mission they’re called to.
On principle, many military folks avoid talking openly about their political leanings. So unless you already have a relationship that involves political discussions, it’s best to avoid messages about candidates or policy when writing to military personnel.
Miss You Messages From Families
When a service member is deployed or serving away from home, they’re naturally missed very much. (I mean, you’ve seen those videos of a returning military mom or dad surprising their kids—and dogs—right?) When a family member or friend you care about is away on an assignment, these messages will make you both feel a little better.
- “Miss you. Love you. So proud of you.”
- “I miss you—but I’m also so proud of the job you’re doing.”
- “We’re all counting the days until you’re back with us again—and we know you are, too.”
- “We all knew what we were signing up for—and what important work you’re doing right now. We’re proud of you, we love you and we miss you.”
- “It’s not the same here when you’re gone. We’re hanging tough and keeping things running—but we can’t wait ’til you’re home.”
- “You got this over there, and we got this over here. It’ll all be OK.”
- “We miss you every minute—but we’re so very, very proud.”
Helpful tip: It’s important to understand that your service member will likely not be able to write back very much. Don’t let that discourage you from sending handwritten cards and letters. Mail call is a big, motivational deal.
Love Notes to Faraway Military Members
Love knows no boundaries, and the military is no exception. Being able to share those words of affection with a spouse or significant other both maintains that relationship’s bond (sometimes over time and distance) and can make a service member’s day. Here are some idea-starters for a love letter.
- “Your commitment to your service makes me love you even more.”
- “I love everything about you. Including the uniform.”
- “Wherever you are, wherever we go…I’ll love you forever.”
- “We have lots of ways to keep in touch, but there are some things you just can’t convey on a video call. Can’t wait until you’re home with me again.”
- “From the moment we met, I’ve known that faith, family and country mean more to you than anything. Your values are part of why I fell in love with you, and that feeling just grows stronger. I miss you, love you and pray for your safety every day.”
Get tips for putting your feelings in your own words with advice on writing a love letter.
They may be tough, but members of the military get sick and injured, just like anyone else. And of course, injuries—sometimes severe—may be sustained in the line of duty.
Recuperating service members need heartfelt and encouraging pick-me-ups during these times.
- “You may be down now, but you’ll be up again soon. That’s how you’re built.”
- “Feel better. That’s an order. (Maybe not an official one—but straight from the heart.)”
- “Even the toughest people need some time to recover. Hope you’re taking care of yourself—and letting your family take care of you.”
- “Things are hard right now, but we’re all pulling for you. Hang in there.”
- “I know you’re frustrated about being laid up—but you’ll be back at it with your military family soon. Until then, get some rest, take care of yourself and follow doctors’ orders.”
- “Thinking healing thoughts and sending gratitude for your service.”
- “I’m so sorry and can’t imagine how hard this must be for you. Wishing you all the best.”
- “After the sacrifices you’ve made, I’m very sorry for this terrible setback.”
- “I hope you get the care you need and the care your service has earned.”
Helpful tip: The sacrifices our military members make and challenging situations they can find themselves in mean they deal with mental health issues, too. Studies show that military personnel and their spouses can have higher rates of depression than the general population. Find words of encouragement, ways to be there for friends with anxiety or depression and ideas for offering support.
Like pretty much any career, the armed forces offer advancement up the ranks, new opportunities to reward success, merit-based awards and commendations, and other kinds of recognition of a job well-done. They also commemorate retirement like other careers. When someone does well in the military, it’s a great source of pride and often calls for congratulations.
Congratulations on a Promotion
A promotion is always a good thing, and military personnel work hard and take pride in these milestone accomplishments. Here are some messages to celebrate them.
- “Congratulations! Your promotion deserves a big salute.”
- “Well-deserved. Your new rank is proof of good, hard work. Thanks for all you do.”
- “Congratulations on pinning up.”
- “Your [stripe(s), bar(s), leaf, eagle, star(s)] was/were hard-earned. Thank you for your service and congratulations.”
- “Rising in the ranks is a clear acknowledgment of your leadership skills.”
- “Your talent and dedication have taken you to new heights of leadership and responsibility. That’s a lot to be proud of.”
- When enlisted personnel are promoted to Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO): “NCOs are the backbone of the military. You deserve this promotion and a big congratulations, too.”
- For promotion to the highest ranks like Colonel, General, Admiral, etc.: “Your promotion to Colonel is a testament to your leadership and service over the years. Congratulations on this honor, and best wishes as you begin this next phase of your career.”
Other Congratulations Messages
- For receiving a new assignment: “I hope you’ll find this well-earned assignment very rewarding. Congratulations.”
- For receiving a medal or commendation: “Congratulations on this achievement, with thanks for your service.”
- General congratulations: “This is a great accomplishment. The (branch of service) is fortunate to have you as a part of the team.”
Congratulations on Retirement
Retiring from the military can be emotional, with feelings ranging from proud and celebrational to a sense of something meaningful ending. Generally, it’s best to keep messages to a military retiree more in the first category, expressing congratulations, gratitude and wishes for the future.
- “Congratulations and thank you so much for your dedicated service.”
- “You served well, and now you can retire with pride.”
- “Retiring from the military is a big deal. So are you. Congrats.”
- “What a great end to a great military career.”
- “Your new orders are to do whatever the heck you want.”
- “The country owes you gratitude, and so do I. Thanks and congrats.”
- “On to the next mission: a happy retirement. Congrats.”
See more ideas for what to write in a retirement card.
It’s natural to feel a special sense of gratitude for the members of our armed forces. They made a commitment to defend us and our nation, our flag, our ideals and our freedom. Though they didn’t join the military for our thanks, many service members will welcome your expressions of appreciation.
Here are a few ideas for general “thank-you” messages to service members:
- “The commitment you’ve made means so much and is so appreciated.”
- “Thank you for your service to our country and its citizens.”
- “Sincere thanks for the big sacrifices you’ve made for our nation.”
- “You deserve thanks every day for your service.”
- “As someone who served, I understand and appreciate the commitment you’ve made to our country. Thank you for your hard work and dedication.”
- “You made the choice to defend our democracy, and you deserve our deepest gratitude.”
Helpful Tip: Get more patriotic messages from Hallmark Business Connections.
Armed Forces Day Appreciation Messages
Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday of May and was created in 1949 to honor and show appreciation to members of all the US armed forces. (May is Military Appreciation Month in the US and also includes Memorial Day, Military Spouse Appreciation Day and V-E (Victory in Europe) Day.)
- “We appreciate your service on this day and every day.”
- “Wishing you and all armed forces members a great day.”
- “Your country thanks you today, and so do I.”
- “Thank you for committing yourself to our country’s safety.”
Veterans Day Appreciation Messages
This day, originally known as Armistice Day and celebrating the end of WWI, is set aside each year on Nov. 11. Its purpose is to honor all living veterans who served in the military, in wartime or peacetime.
- “I can’t thank you enough for your service to our country.”
- “Your commitment to our freedom and safety deserves thanks.”
- “You served bravely, and I’m so grateful.”
- “It takes a special person to serve like you did.”
- “My deepest thanks to you and gratitude to all who served.”
- “You deserve to feel a lot of pride on this day. And I feel a lot of thanks.”
Get more ideas for thank-you notes and messages of appreciation.
It’s said that when one person in a family serves, the whole family does. That’s especially true of the spouses of military men and women. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes for a military family, including frequent moves and times spent separated. Supportive messages to military spouses can both encourage and comfort. Note: Military Spouse Appreciation Day is celebrated on the Friday before Mother’s Day each May.
For spouses and partners:
- “It’s not easy being a military spouse. I really admire your patience, support, dedication, flexibility and—maybe most important—sense of humor.”
- “Thinking of you while he’s/she’s/they’re deployed. Hang in there.”
- “You take care of a lot as a military spouse. Hope you’re taking care of you, too.”
- “Your kids are lucky to have two strong parents to look up to.”
- “Glad there’s a day to say thanks to military spouses, too. Your service to our country is appreciated, too!”
- “Military spouses deserve big thanks—and big hugs whenever they need them.”
- “You’ve raised a great person and we’re grateful for his/her/their service.”
- “I bet you’re proud of your son/daughter and his/her/their service.”
- “Keeping you and your child in our thoughts during his/her/their deployment.”
For kids (or “brats”):
- “Military moves can be tough. But you’re tougher. I’ll be thinking of you!”
- “There are a bunch of kids in [new location] who don’t know it yet, but they’re about to meet a really good friend. (That’s you!)”
- “I’m sorry you’re missing your mom/dad. Hang in there.”
- “I know your mom/dad is thinking of you every day. So am I.”
Helpful tip: Military addresses are a little complicated and very specific—so get the best advice on sending letters to the military from the US Postal Service.
For more information about special days that recognize the military, see our post on Military Appreciation Holidays: How We Honor Service Members.