Gifts for Your Cadet


***2/10/2019 Please note: I am no longer updating the blog posts for Citadel parents. See the official school website for the most up to date information***

Each year at Christmas time and the end of the school year parents of cadets at The Citadel begin to think of gift items either for their cadet or one that has been particularly helpful to their cadet. It’s a bit late for this advice to be helpful for this year’s Christmas but the ideas below will stand for any occasion, including graduation.

Gift Cards for restaurants and movie theaters in the area are always welcomed. Knobs won’t be able to have food delivered to the barracks until after Recognition Day, but they do get into town on the weekends. Popular restaurants include Moe’s Southwest Grill, Mama Kim’s, Jim’n Nick’s BBQ, and Sticky Fingers. There are many more restaurants in Charleston, just call them to see if they offer gift cards. Restaurant gift cards make a nice gift for host families too.

Netflix, Amazon Prime and other online entertainment options are popular with cadets. This gift may be a better option after knob year.

Other gift ideas for cadets include: A watch, coffee maker or hot-pot, good sunglasses, small 6 pack cooler, a good pillow, noise canceling headphones.

If they are a hunter items like a good hunting knife or other equipment.

Some cadets enjoy gift cards for an experience like skydiving, a boat/fishing trip or other activity.

Ideas for the graduating senior include:

Lifetime Membership in the CAA

Citadel Blazer buttons or other jewelry

A nice picture frame with a photo from Ring weekend or other occasion

A Big Red Flag or Company Guidon.

Any number of items from the Bookstore on Campus

Of course for the young grad who will set up their first apartment or home, cash is always welcomed!

Links to previous posts about gifts can be found on this link.

Gifts for Citadel Cadets and Graduates


Each year around this time I am asked about gift ideas for cadets. While each cadet and graduate will have different likes and needs, I’ll post a list of suggestions. I have not purchased from all these companies and this post is not an endorsement of their company, just a listing of companies who offer Citadel related products. These ideas also hold for graduation gifts, and appreciation gifts for senior mentors, classmates and recent graduates. The Citadel Bookstore is a great place to start for gift giving. The photos in this entry of the bookstore were taken over parents weekend, 2014.

Here is the list in no particular order:

The Citadel Bookstore – Diploma Frames, gift frames, glassware, jewelry, etc.

Citadel Alumni Association Merchandise – Alumni gifts of all types Including the Big Red Flag

The Citadel Miniature ring and pendant

For junior and senior cadets: Citadel Alumni Association Lifetime Membership

LaHart – jewelry, crystal and glassware

Football Fanatics – wearables

Original Collegiate Art by Brenda Harris Tustian

Summerall Guard merchadise

Philanthropic giving – various cadet related funds. Give in honor or memory of someone. See this previous blog post for links.

Citadel Bulldog apparel by CBSSports

Citadel Sports gifts by Planet Sports Team

Citadel Golf Accessories

SoCon Gear

Bulldog embroidered pants, shorts, shirts and skirts by Pennington and Bailes

Palmetto Boards ‘n Bags – Customized corn hole boards are a popular gift for any Citadel fan.

Bottle Breacher – A fun gift for a graduate in the military

Spirited Signs – A company owned and operated by a Citadel alum.

A decal by Spirited Signs.
A decal by Spirited Signs.

Historic Nutcrackers – Citadel Cadet Nutcracker to be available after January 2015. Contact the company for more information.

Combat Humidor a great gift for a deployed alum.

Through Their Eyes – a new book by George Steffner

I have learned that Carolina Cadets is not currently stocked with their full range of nutcrackers and ornaments, but she does have the 48″ Cadet Nutcrackers. You can contact her through the Facebook page for her cake decorating business.

Diploma frame Diploma Frames Citadel Book F-Troop Book Citadel/Military related books Gift items Jewelry watches License plate frames Artwork Sketches Stuffed Bulldog mascot Photo frames


Gifts for Cadets

Each year about this time the search terms for gifts for cadets increase. Parents, family and friends of cadets are usually looking for ideas for graduates, but also to celebrate the end of knob year at Recognition Day.

I’ve written about this topic before and you can see those ideas on these previous posts: Finding Gifts for Your Citadel Cadet; The Citadel: Recognition Day and Graduation Gift IdeasGift Ideas for Citadel Cadets and Graduates.

My top recommendation for newly recognized knobs is a company t-shirt and car decal. You can purchase them at the Citadel Bookstore. They aren’t expecting a gift, but one of the first things former knobs do after Recognition Day is head to the bookstore to get a company t-shirt.

For the seniors The Citadel Bookstore and other merchants have an endless number of great gifts. The bookstore carries diploma frames, and other gifts.

The Lifetime Membership to the Citadel Alumni Association is the top gift for a graduate. They are given a plaque at a luncheon graduation week. The membership means they will always be connected to their alma mater through the CAA.

Contact Dawn Allen at:
Contact Dawn Allen at: [email protected].

I’ve seen some very creative gifts this year. Parents, mostly moms, are very resourceful. One 2016 mom sent me photos of a picture she had painted by a friend. Dawn Allen works off of photos, magazines, or any kind of images you want to send. Tell her what you want and she will design a comp. Price depends on size, detail, and if lettering is involved. Anything is negotiable. Contact her at: [email protected]

Photos of their time at The Citadel are always appreciated. I gave the 2011 graduates of Bravo Company two photos for graduation. One was a group photo from their knob year taken on Corps Day. The second photo was a group shot taken in front of the company letter on Ring Weekend.

If you have a great gift idea you’d like to share, please add it to the comment section of this entry.

Bravo knobs pose on 4th division (4th Floor) in their dress whites, March 2008
Bravo knobs pose on 4th division (4th Floor) in their dress whites, March 2008
Bravo Company 2011 wear the Ring photo by Stanley Leary
Bravo Company 2011 wear the Ring photo by Stanley Leary

Gift Ideas for Citadel Cadets and Graduates

I’ve noticed that a number of people are searching for various permutations of “gifts for Citadel cadets” lately. I have learned of some other unique gifts since an earlier post and will link to them here along with some popular sites.

Brenda Harris Tustian has a wonderful site that includes customize prints for Citadel fans. See her website , then go to “Personalized Art,” scroll down to see “A Citadel Christmas” and “Gameday Memories Citadel”

Chocolate Cadet by Christophe Artisan Chocolatier Patissier
Chocolate Cadet by Christophe Artisan Chocolatier Patissier

A fellow Citadel mom recently posted a photo of a custom-made chocolate cadet from Christophe Artisan Chocolatier – Patissier. I emailed the shop for more information and learned each Chocolate Cadet is made to order by hand. They sent a photo for me to include here.  The cadet is not on their website. You need to call the shop to order, 843-297-8674. Each Chocolate cadet is $19.95 plus applicable taxes and shipping. They require a three-day lead time if you are picking up from the shop, longer if it needs to be shipped. When my grad returns from his deployment I will definitely be placing an order.

One time that is searched for frequently are the custom-made Cadet ornaments and nutcrackers by Carolina Cadets. We have an ornament and a Summerall Guard Nutcracker. They are well made a fun to display at the holidays. Our nutcracker guards the entry foyer of our home. (She will be back online in 2015)

Carolina Cadet Nutcracker and an Army Nutcracker purchased at Target.
Carolina Cadet Nutcracker and an Army Nutcracker purchased at Target.

A great gift for a graduate is the Lifetime Membership to the Citadel Alumni Association. It is $400 for juniors and seniors, CGC students and Active Duty Students.

The Big Red flag or a company guidon is a great gift for a graduate. The Big Red flag can be personalized with the company letter and /or the graduation year. The staff of Carolina Flag and Banner are very nice to work with.

A BIg Red Flag with graduation year from Carolina Flag and Banner
A Big Red Flag with graduation year from Carolina Flag and Banner

Of course the Gift Shop on campus has a wide variety of terrific gifts for cadets and graduates. The frames for the diplomas may seem expensive, but once you price them at a framer you’ll see that the price is comparable. A popular gift for Recognition Day is a company t-shirt and window decal. Under the Alumni tab on the website are some nice gift ideas for the graduate.

For members of the Summerall Guards and alumni you can find nice gifts on their website under “Shop for Promo Apparel.” These items make great gifts for senior mentors who are a members of the Summerall Guards.

M. LaHart & Co. has a very nice selection of gift items for cadets and graduates.

I have learned that parents of Citadel cadets are very resourceful. If you have a great gift idea and are willing to share the idea with other parens, please post a link in the comments here.

The Citadel: Recognition Day and Graduation Gift ideas

Two very happy members of the Class of 2011 at the end of Recognition Day, 2008.

Four years ago after Recognition day for the Class of 2011, I was in the Gift Shop in Mark Clark Hall trying to decide on a gift for my son before we left town. While I was in front of the company t-shirt section several of his Bravo Company classmates walked in. They were there to buy themselves a company shirt. My hunch was right. After a year of being a knob buying items with your company logo on it is a right of passage for 4th Class Cadets. I threw in a company decal for good measure.

One privilege the 4th Class cadets can take advantage of is ordering food to be delivered. A gift card to their favorite would be appreciated.

You can’t really make a mistake when giving a cadet a present. They never really expect one in the first place. A few months ago I posted links to various places to find gifts for cadets in the post Finding Gifts for your Citadel Cadet.

Items from the gift shop with their company logo are great gifts for 4th Class Cadets, but any Citadel logo item is appreciated throughout their 4 years at the school.

For graduation a lasting gift is the Lifetime Membership to the Citadel Alumni Association(CAA). It is $400 for Junior and Senior cadets. The price increases to $500 the first year after graduation then it is $700 after that. The CAA also has a number of gift items for sale.

A new Lifetime member of the Citadel Alumni Association. The CAA hosts a nice luncheon and presentation ceremony the day before graduation. photo by Stanley Leary

A diploma frame is a great gift. The diploma frames at the gift shop range in price from $180 – 205 and includes the school name and/or seal. That may sound expensive, it really is the going price to have something mounted and framed.

Some parents have given a case for their seniors sword. You can find them at the gift shop or a variety of online military supply outlets.

The Citadel Gift Shop carries a nice variety of gifts and jewelry.

The online store of Carolina Cadets offers cadet themed ornaments and nutcrackers. (She is offline now but will be back in 2015)

If your cadet will be serving in a branch of the military a gift appropriate to that branch is also a good idea.

Please share your gift ideas and web links in the comment section.

Summerall Guard Nutcracker from Carolina Cadets.
Carolina Cadet Christmas ornament.

The Citadel: Tips from One Parent for Graduation Weekend

The Long Grey Line, 2011 photo by Stanley LearyIt won’t be long until your senior cadet will be graduating. The cadets wait four years for this weekend, then spend the rest of their lives wishing they could return.

In some cases the cadets will be commissioned into a branch of the military, graduate and report for duty. Other cadets will graduate and begin their careers in the business world or go on to graduate school.

The events of commencement weekend begin on Thursday with an awards ceremony and the baccalaureate service. The Star of the West competition is also held Thursday.

Cadet Nelson Lalli receives his lieutenant bars from his father, Blake Lalli and his uncle, LTC (Ret.) John Lalli photo by Stanley Leary
LT Lalli receives his first salute from SFC Polidoro photo by Stanley Leary

The commissioning services are held Friday morning. The Army usually goes first. Check with your cadet and/or the ROTC office if you have questions about the ceremony.We were told to arrive an hour early to secure the best seat. Two family members may pin the bars on the new lieutenant and may sit with him or her. The rest of the family and friends sit behind them. After the ceremony in the chapel the lieutenants go out to the parade field to receive their first salute from a non-commissioned officer (NCO). It is customary for the new officer to give the NCO a silver dollar at this time.

We gave our cadet a Lifetime Membership in the Citadel Alumni Association. All new Lifetime members and up to 3 other guests may attend a gathering in their honor at the alumni building. A cadet miniature ring or pendant is a nice gift idea for a cadet to give their mother. Since they are expensive it may be a gift for later, after the graduate has worked for a few years. Other scheduled events Friday include instructions and photos of alumni and their graduate son or daughters or grandsons and daughters.

The Summerall Guards perform for the graduating class prior to the final graduation parade. The schedule states that in the case of inclement weather the parade will be canceled. In May of 2011 President Rosa told us the only reason they would cancel the parade was if there was lightning. True to his word, the parade took place in the pouring rain. We were soaked, but happy.

You will want to find a spot across from your cadets company during the parade. At the designated time the seniors are called out of their companies and from the Long Grey Line, standing shoulder to shoulder the length the parade field. They then march toward the review stands and away from their companies. When they reach the other side the graduating seniors turn around and wave to their companies. Be sure to have your cameras, and tissues, handy!

I was warned by a friend whose son graduated a year before mine not to be surprised if my son didn’t spend a lot of time with us. The seniors begin to realize that the closer they get to graduation the closer they get to saying good-bye to their close friends. They have lived for the day when they no longer had to worry about an SMI or a Friday parade, but graduating also means they will never again live with all these good friends again. As an observer throughout the weekend I could see this realization hit the new graduates one by one.

May of 2011 it poured throughout the parade. We were soaked and decided to skip the reception at the president’s home. I’m sure most years it is a lovely event to attend.

McAlister Fieldhouse fills up quickly on graduation day. photo by Stanley Leary

Graduation on Saturday is pretty typical of most college graduations. Each cadet is given up to 8 tickets to use. If you need more tickets your cadet is told to resource with friends who may not use the allotment. The Cadet Activities office handles the ticket process. The tickets are assigned to you and can be any where in the field house. I am not sure of the procedure for accessible seating. When in doubt check with the Cadet Activities office directly.

Like the parades when the companies are in alphabetical order, the cadets sit in alphabetical order. Once you spot one or two you know you can then start to narrow down where your cadet is seated. We played a modified game of “Where’s Waldo” to keep my daughter occupied. If you have you ger family members I suggest packing quiet activities like coloring books since the ceremony will last at least 3 hours.

We played "Where's Waldo" while waiting to hear our cadet's name called. photo by Stanley Leary

At the very end of the graduation ceremony the president will dismiss the cadets for the last time. Be sure to have your camera ready. The photos with all their covers in the air are really fun!

It helps to have a plan after the ceremony of where you will meet. Many families met on the floor. Others met outside.

DISMISSED!!! photo by Stanley Leary


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

General information regarding commencement weekend tickets and handicap access, see the FAQ link above for more information.

Many seniors never want to see their uniforms again. If you want to have it, make sure you let your cadet know prior to graduation week. Many of them leave their uniforms behind. The underclassmen then through the rooms of abandoned clothes and pick up what they will need for the next year.

Rental houses and condos book up quickly. Get yours as soon as you can. We stayed in a hotel and had no trouble getting reservations a few months ahead.

Each company and group of friends have their own traditions at graduation. We were invited to a luncheon by the family of one of our sons friends. I’ve heard of others who rented homes and hosted beach parties.

Dress for the weekend events – See FAQ link above. Most people dress up a little more for the commencement weekend events than for regular parades during the year. Graduation and the Commissioning ceremonies especially. You will see a wide variety of outfits though. The general rule of thumb is to match the uniform of the day for the cadets which for graduation and the parade is their most formal. For the commissioning ceremony, the Lifetime Membership Luncheon and graduation my daughter and I wore dresses and my husband wore a tie. If it is a sunny weekend, you may want to wear a hat with a wide brim to help shield you from the sun during the parade.

The Citadel, Bravo Company 2011, photo by Stanley Leary

BVA's and Summerall Guards: Cuts Day, Mardi Gras and Corps Day

The 2011 Summerall Guards run with the 2012 BVA's the Friday night of Corps Day Weekend. photo by Stanley Leary

Well, February is here. At The Citadel that means the Bond Volunteer Aspirants (BVA’s) are moving close to Cuts Day. I checked the training schedules the other day to find that Cuts Day for the 2013 BVA’s is Feb. 6. *NOTE: since this posting a parent has told me Cuts Day is delayed until Feb. 14. if you have other information, please post it to the comments section below.

While the BVA’s look forward to Cuts Day as the end of their training period, the current Summerall Guards are moving closer to their trip to New Orleans, LA and Mardi Gras. The time has flown by since my son was a junior and BVA. We waited anxiously to hear if he had made the Summerall Guards. I combed the internet for photos of their first big appearance after Corps Day at the Azalea Festival.

I’ve written about our journey before but this time of year the memories come flooding back. I’ll include a few tips here for parents of both the BVA’s and Summerall Guards.

Be sure to ask or email your BVA and have a plan for how they will inform you if they have made it. I logged onto Facebook the night we thought my son would find out and began to see congratulatory messages being sent to some cadets. My son went tot he gym to work out that night and we received a call from him on his way back to the barracks. Once they find out they have made it, practice for their first appearance on Corps Day begins.

The 2011 Summerall Guards wait for the 2013 BVA's to march onto the field to take their rifles. photo by Stanley Leary.

The Mardi Gras schedule is usually known sometime in January. This year the Summerall Guards posted the schedule to their Facebook group page.  I’ll include the schedule here in case you aren’t on Facebook.

2012 Summerall Guards Mardi Gras parade Schedule:
17 Feb 1830 hrs Le Krewe d”Etat
18 Feb UNK time Krewe of Endymion
19 Feb 1200 hrs Krewe of Thoth
21 Feb 1000 hrs King Rex Parade

The Times Picayune posts news, photos, videos and more on their website. I watched one parade via their web cam last year.

Corps Day Weekend 2012 is March 16 – 18. On Saturday the current Summerall Guards will march onto the parade field first. The schedule is posted to the main website about a month ahead of time. Last year the 2011 Summerall Guards did not do the entire series. They marched out did an abbreviated series then prepared to greet the BVA’s. The BVA’s march onto the field and in a very moving ceremony they take their rifles from the preceding class of Guards.

One tip: find out from your cadet if when they march out they are on the side closest to the barracks or closer to the Summerall Chapel. This will help you know where to stand to watch. My son was in the barracks side 5 rows back on the end. We stood in front of the reviewing stands right on the rope. As with the parades it is really hard to tell the cadets apart. Knowing their position will help you get great photos. While the new class goes through their performance of the series the out going Guards kneel to one side and watch. When it is over the new guards receive their patch from one of the out going Guards. They usually have a fundraising BBQ lunch. At the lunch you’ll have the opportunity to purchase the Summerall Guards Parent and Supporter t-shirts. The 2012 Summerall Guards set up a web site to sell the t-shirts and receive donations. I’m not sure that will be continued with the next class.

The 2012 BVA's march onto the parade field to receive their rifles. photo by Stanley Leary

The first big performance of the new Summerall Guards is the Azalea Festival in Wilmington, NC. I found photos through the official website and the local newspaper. The festival now has their own Facebook page too. The Summerall Guards act as escorts for the young ladies (high school aged) who are called Belles and serve as guides for the tour and festival. I don’t know many families that attend this festival. If you live close by and can post photos for the other families I’m sure everyone will appreciate it.

A quick search on YouTube will turn up scores of videos posted of the Summerall Guards over the years. I’ve noticed the number of videos increase each year. Be sure to introduce yourself tot he other families of the current guards. You can share photos and videos with each other. A great way to commemorate your cadet becoming a Summerall Guard is to purchase a nutcracker made by Carolina Cadets. She usually sells ornaments at a table during Parents Weekend and other major weekends. I ordered mine online.

Best wishes to all the 2013 Bond Volunteer Aspirants and their families!

A special thanks to my husband, photographer, Stanley Leary, for the photos. You can see all his photos of Corps Day 2011 here. To see what the ceremony looked like March of 2010 see this clip. THe passing of the rifles is at about the 6:50 mark. A video of the March 2011 is here.

2011 Summerall Guards photo by Stanley Leary

The 2012 Summerall Guards perform the CItadel series for the first time. photo by Stanley Leary

The 2011 Summerall Guard watch as the 2012 Summerall Guard perform the Citadel series for the first time.
Family and friends greet the 2011 and 2012 Summerall Guards after the ceremony. photo by Stanley Leary

Finding gifts for your Citadel Cadet

I know the holidays are behind us, but there are more gift giving opportunities ahead. Before I forget – again – to post links to the various sites I’ve found to purchase gifts, I thought I’d update the blog with a few fun links.

Carolina Cadet Nutcracker and an Army Nutcracker purchased at Target.
Carolina Cadet Nutcracker and an Army Nutcracker purchased at Target.

If you’ve visited the display tables in Mark Clark Hall on Parents Weekend you know about Carolina Cadets.  She makes the cadet ornaments and nutcrackers. Her web site is easy to navigate and features a number of other gift items for you or your cadet.  I purchased a Summerall Guard Nutcracker last Christmas via the web site. The order went through easily and the nutcracker arrived in great shape.

For fans of the old gift shop, you can still find some of the nicer items online at the M.LaHart web site. The current gift shop does have a link on their website as well.They carry jewelry, barware and other items for the home and office. In 2010 I bought a nice pewter flask with The Citadel seal on it for my son’s 21 birthday. I can’t find the flask online any longer. I really miss the old gift shop and its unique items.

A Citadel alum/dad I know received some shirts from the Campus Team Shop and was very pleased.  They give you the option to personalize some of their shirts. Another site for t-shirts and sweatshirts I found is Football Fanatics.

Cadets and alumni seem to like the Old Corps Clothing Store. I purchased a t-shirt for my 2011 grad. It was easy to place an order and the shirt arrived in a matter of days.  They have a sale going on right now (today is January 18, 2012). Go to their Facebook page for the code and get t-shirts for $15 or 2 for $25. Update 042312: They also feature shirts for Recognition Day.

The Citadel Alumni Association has several items for sale on their merchandise page. Just click on the left side of the page for photos of each items and instructions on how to order.

For items a cadet may appreciate but are not Citadel specific I found L.L. Bean has a Dress Thomson shirt that resembles the official plaid of the school.

My son was in the Army ROTC program. Items to help with his career in the Army were also gift items throughout his time at the school. One sleeping bag folded down to the size of a football, but would keep the soldier warm in very low temps. The prices varied widely online. I ended up getting a great price from Hodge Army Navy in Marietta, GA. Hodge also gave us a 10% discount on the boots and shoes for knob year once we mentioned my son was a cadet.

I’m sure there are other great gift ideas out there. Please comment here and share your finds!

Previous posts from Off the Base

As a little background, I thought it might be helpful to post links to the entries I’ve written for Off the Base, a blog by Bobbie O’Brien of WUSF.  Most of my entries for Off the Base have to do with being the mom of a cadet at The Citadel.  Future entries on this blog will be on a variety of topics.

The Making of a Military Mom

Mom Readies for Son’s Military College

The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents

How The Citadel “Ya-Yas” Came to Be

Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel

The Citadel Trained Me as Well as My Son

The Citadel: BVA’s and  Summerall Guards

The Citadel: Recognition Day and Ring Weekend

Care Packages for Cadets: The Citadel Heroes Project

The Citadel Bond Renews Parents’ Long Time Friendships

The Citadel: Unofficial Tips for Families of Incoming Knobs

The Citadel: Saying Good-Bye, But Always Connected

A Sister, a Mom, A Family Prepares for Military Life

Dorie, Nelson and Leslie. Ring Ceremony 2010

Survival Skills to Succeed as a Citadel Mom

A New Blue Star Mom Shows Supports for Fallen Soldier

Celebration, Tradition, Ritual: The Long Gray Li

Citadel Parent Crafts Her Own Graduation Ritual

Graduation Day: No Longer the Mother of a Cadet

A Letter to The Citadel Class of 2015

Citadel Mom Cycle Completed – A Blue Star Mom Emerges

A Military Mom Meets Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, IV

An Army Mom Transitions from The Citadel to Ft. Benning

A Seminary Student, Now an Army Mom Reflects on 9/11