A family is sitting down to a nicely set dinner table.
A family is sitting down to a nicely set dinner table.

Now that your favorite soldier is celebrating a birthday, boot camp graduation, homecoming or a military retirement, you're planning a backyard barbecue, casual party or formal ball, but you're unsure how to decorate the tables with centerpieces befitting the occasion. All it takes is a little bit of resourcefulness and inventiveness to create military-themed centerpieces your soldier and guests will enjoy.

Red, White and Blue All Over

Fill three multi-height clear glass cylindrical vases with red, white and blue candies or glass marbles, one color per vase, filling them to about 3 inches from the vase rim. Paint long de-leaved twigs or branches with white spray paint; after they are dry, insert them into the cylindrical vases. Tie red, white and blue ribbons around the vases and attach silver, red, white and blue stars to the branches with a hot-glue gun. Set the centerpiece on a silver tray, with two small blue jars or vases filled with fresh-cut daisies to either side.

Air Force Centerpieces

Gray construction paper becomes paper airplanes when you fold them and attach them to long craft sticks with a hot-glue gun and set them inside a tall silver or glass vase. Add the U.S. Air Force star logo to each wing of the plane. If you don't want to draw the stars freehand, pick up decals from craft or hobby stores. Tie a single silver helium balloon to each centerpiece around the jar that holds the planes. Arrange fresh-cut and fragrant rosemary branches encircling the vase at its bottom.

M.A.S.H. Backyard Barbecue

For a military-themed backyard barbecue, set up a freestanding canopy with green netting hung on three sides as the area for the self-serve buffet. Hang a paper banner with the stenciled letters, "Mess Hall" in all caps across it. Inside the canopy on a long table covered with a camo, Army green or brown tablecloth, set a galvanized bucket filled with sand to hold the small American flags and individual unit flags of the celebrated attendees as the centerpiece. Next to the bucket, set up a green Army tank filled with green Army men. Add flatware to clear glass canning jars tied with Army-green ribbons next to the camo napkins and paper plates.

Formal Navy Military Ball Centerpieces

At each table for the formal military dinner ball, add a square of dark blue, almost black, fabric to the center of the table. It doesn't matter if the corners hang over a bit or meet the edge of the table; just center the cloth inside the circle of the table. Arrange three tall glass cylinders with clear or gold and black glass beads on the bottom third of the cylinders in a circle at the center of the table or set upon a round silver platter. Add water to the jars until they are two-thirds full. Set a floating votive candle in each cylinder with tied large gold and white bows between each of the glass jars in the center of the table. The gold, white and dark blue represents the colors of the Navy's service uniform.