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DIY Air Force Keepsake Box

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I’ve known my husband 33 years. (Yikes! How is that possible when I’m just 32 years old?!) We met in Air Force ROTC in college.  I admire him and all that he’s accomplished. He’s a reserved guy, with  a dry sense of humor (which I enjoy, most of the time). He’s dedicated, determined and, honestly, kinda geeked out about the things he’s passionate about (which I find charming). He’s also an Air Force pilot that has flown missions all over the world and in all kinds of situations (which I’m proud of, but has also caused me many a sleepless night). He’s a C-130 pilot. They’re known as down-to-earth, hard-working crews (not the prima dona stereotype of pilots that you see in the movies or on TV). He’s flown missions to deliver troops and cargo to critical and dangerous situations (don’t ever think I say that non-nonchalantly). I’m incredibly proud of the humanitarian missions he’s flown to help people that desperately needed the assistance and supplies he brought to them. He’s a pretty cool guy with a really cool, exciting job that he’s passionate about (oh, and he has a really cool, intelligent wife, too). Recently I realized it was time for me to create a DIY Air Force keepsake box to honor his service, his passion and his keepsakes. 

open decorated box with scattered flight patches on white table

My son asked his dad about his Air Force service and pilot uniform. My husband dug out patches he’s worn on his uniform in almost 28 years of service. I was excited to see the patches that are almost as familiar to me as they are to him, but when he pulled them out, I couldn’t see the patches.

plastic bags of flight patches on table

I was stopped cold by the fact that he was keeping these precious keepsakes in two plastic bags. I decided right there that I had to create a personalized box for him to store his Air Force keepsakes in and honor his memories, accomplishments and passion. 

overhead view of box with retro planes and flight patches scattered on table

My husband and his memorabilia are worth so much more than two plastic bags. A personalized keepsake box is a more honorable way to store his collection of Air Force patches. 

DIY Air Force Keepsake Box

I had gotten my husband several 1950’s magazine ads relating to Air Force pilots, recruiting and this one about the C-130 (the plane he flies) many years ago. I’ve always been hooked on the vintage look of the C-130 ad and that it showcases all that the aircraft can do. I scanned the ad and printed it out on white card stock paper. 

2 images of scanned items on color paper

I also chose some of the more colorful and meaningful patches from my husband’s collection. I scanned them onto white card stock paper as well. 

I chose a box from my  collection of boxes I have been holding onto for future repurposing crafts (tell me that you have a similar collection). I chose this one that is sturdy,  has a lid that lifts up and has the perfect background color. You could use any cardboard box. If you don’t like the box’s background color, you can paint it with craft paint or decoupage paper onto the box in a color that you prefer. 

brown box, bottle of glue, sponge brush, paper images on white table

I cut each of the scanned patches out by hand so I could carefully cut around the details.  I also cut the C-130 ad to fit the top of the box. 

I used decoupage glue to attach the ad and the patches to the box. I wanted a mat look to the finished decoupage box so I was careful to only spread the glue on the back of the paper and not get any on the front of the paper. If any of the decoupage glue got on the box, I quickly wiped it off with a damp paper towel.

collage of 4  images of different angles of decorated box and flight patches

I placed the patches to cover the advertisements on the sides of the box. Simply plan the placement of your images to cover the existing advertising on the box. I was very pleased with the way the keepsake box turned out, but when my son came home from school and told me, “Cool, mom. Cool.” I knew I’d hit this one outta the park

My husband’s collection of patches fit perfectly into his brand new repurposed Air Force keepsake box and it’s a much more worthy way to store items that have so much meaning to him. 

open decorated box with flight patches scattered around, 2 bottles of cold coffee and glass of coffee

With these Air Force patches now easy to access and proudly displayed on our bookshelf, my husband took a walk down memory lane with my son last evening. They enjoyed sharing stories and memories together (of course looking at cool Air Force patches was fun, too.) My husband was able to enjoy a glass of SToK™ Cold Brew Iced Coffee that is just as geeked-out (in the best possible way) about coffee and the Arabica Blend that’s a Brazilian Blend Profile used to make it as my husband is geek-out about his exciting flying experiences. Listening to my husband tell my son flying stories, it’s obvious that it’s critical that he be on when he’s piloting an aircraft through unbelievable situations. SToK™ is cold brewed, slow brewed and strong enough to make sure he will complete the mission, by any beans necessary.  I like that SToK™ is pure coffee with no weird, impossible-to-pronounce ingredients. It also occurred to me that there’s a SToK™ flavor for every mission he might have – not too sweet for when he is flying a humanitarian mission and un-sweet for some of those other missions. 

I was at Walmart running errands where I found SToK™ Iced Coffee in the refrigerated drinks section. 

box with retro airplane images and flight patches scattered around

Who do you know that is as inspirational and geeked-out about a job and passion as SToK™ Coffee and my husband are? Make your own DIY Air Force Keepsake Box to honor keepsakes and memorabilia. 

More Keepsake DIY Box Ideas

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  1. My husband is also in the AF and this is a great idea. I think I’m going to do something along these lines, thanks for sharing!

    1. So nice to meet another AF spouse, Hollie. Have fun creating your own keepsake box. I really enjoyed making this one for my husband.

  2. Very impressed by all those patches. And it was sad that he was keeping them in plastic bags. Those badges of honor should definitely be displayed. #client

  3. I was thrilled with your idea. My husband so Air Force Career started as a
    C-130 crew chief. As military life proceeds he was switched to fighter
    aircraft. His heart always belonged to the C-130 until his death.

    1. Barbara, I worked with C-130 crews when I was on active duty and they are just the best group of hardworking people. Thanks so much for your husband’s service.

  4. Wow does this bring back memories, I to was in the Air Force ROTC program when I was in college 33 years ago. I was even involved with the Arnold Air Society. I had a flying slot the whole nine yards but almost died during basic. I and ended up getting sent home. I was going to try again after I graduated but during that time I developed severe Asthma. I had to find a different career path since I knew the Air Force wouldn’t be excepting any officers who had issues with breathing. One year after graduation with 2 bachelor degrees, I was getting some money together to move out of state, when I was diagnosed with MS. The career field I wanted to go into was deemed too stressful for my condition and was advised to find a different path. I didn’t realize at the time that I only had a few more years to go before I would be declared disabled. That occurred when I was 38 years old. I’m now wheelchair bound and living in a assisted living facility because my health isn’t the best. Truth be told it hasn’t been for a while but I try to keep a positive attitude about things. I’ve done a lot of things a woman shouldn’t or normally probably wouldn’t do but I never saw what the difference was between who did it as long as it got done. I’m a very much type A personality and a Leo to boot. I just normally take charge and have to do something. I try doing things in my facility but I’m still in the mind set from college of being of service. I know there have been a lot of new veterans now and a lot that have wounds, external and internal. I keep thinking that with all that I’ve been through with my health. Truth I’ve also had renal cancer where I lost my right kidney and 3 other major surgeries and a lot of outpatient surgeries to the point I’ve lost count. I think I may be able to help our veterans somehow but I’m not sure who to contact or how to get started. I thought with your military background and connections maybe you could give me a point in the correct direction for I have no map for this adventure.

    1. Wow, Melissa! You’ve dealt with a lot and are definitely an inspiration. You could reach out to your local VA hospital, to your local VFW. You could also ask at your assisted living facility – there may be veterans there that would like to connect and chat. That’s so wonderful that you’d like to connect with veterans. Sounds like you’re a determined woman and will find your way on this adventure.

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