Wendy Poling
Frequent Contributor

This year my husband and I will be apart for both of our birthdays. His birthday is in the fall, mine in winter. I found myself feeling less than creative when it came to putting together the perfect gift that could travel thousands and thousands of miles.


Here is what I knew not to send:

  1. A sweatshirt of his favorite college team. I did this one year and he couldn't wear it. (I forgot he had to practically wear his uniform each and every minute of the day!)
  2. A sweater. See above.
  3. Cologne. Evidently when you are in tight quarters it's best not to wear cologne since the smell magnifies in a small, confined space of a submarine. I later opted for some lightly scented body spray for men from my favorite bath and body retailer.
  4. Chocolate. It always seems to melt and make a mess. I now only send M&Ms.


While this is not an exhaustive list, here are some tips to get you started the next time you are planning a long distance birthday celebration for your loved one:


  1. Ask him what he wants. You might be surprised if it is something simple like bacon flavored sunflower seeds and the latest book from his favorite author. Don't over complicate the process.
  2. Make a photo CD. This option is a new take on an old idea. On the CD include photos of family members holding "Happy Birthday" signs; scenes of favorite hometown locations, and to create some intrigue have a photo of a wrapped present they can open when they get home. If you include "racy" photos, remember whatever you send could and will most likely be seen BY EVERYONE in your spouses command (no matter how private he says he will keep them)! My advice: keep it tastefully sexy, but not completely "commando" should your photos make it "out into the open".
  3. Mini movie. Create a video with "Happy Birthday" messages from you, your kids, moms, dads, sisters, brothers, etc. You can do them live in person or add some unexpected element by video taping the voice message you play from a long distance relative. You don't need a fancy video camera either; keep it simple by using your smart phone or borrowing one from a neighbor friend!
  4. Care package with their favorite things. Depending on the platform your spouse serves on and how well you plan in advance you can send a care package with their favorite treats and some fun games. Since my husband was on a submarine, I would have to send a care package with him when he left for sea. When he was downrange I could mail packages, which made this process much easier. Ask your spouse which is best, sending a box with him marked, "DO NOT OPEN TILL BIRTHDAY" or mailing it well in advance. Consider including a handwritten love letter. It's the one thing they will most likely cherish the most.
  5. Ship a birthday cake. For his birthday this year I wanted something creative and unexpected. After much thought, I opted to send him a homemade birthday cake complete with frosting and personalized with his name on top. The company I found specializes in creating cakes that can be shipped to far off places.

Being apart for special occasions like birthdays is never easy. We miss our loved ones so much it can make our heart hurt from the separation. The good news is this time apart is only temporary and we can look forward to the future with great anticipation for the day when we are reunited! This experience allows us to appreciate those special moments even more then they are home.


I'm always amazed and impressed at the creativity of military spouses. Please share your tips and ideas on how you figured out a way to still celebrate your loved one's birthday while they were down range, in the field, out to sea, in the air or under the ocean.



Wirecake.com - Specializes in shipping birthday cakes to service members in far off locations.