The Strength Behind the Strong website. Proudly supporting our friends and family in the U.S. military, including Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.


The Strength Behind The Strong was founded by Christine Hofmann-Bourque, who is proud to have a husband in the Army, three brothers in the Navy and Army, and a sister-in-law in the Army. Christine is also a professional journalist. Read our first post to find out why this website is so close to her heart. More >>

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Update: Send a Valentine’s Day care package to Afghanistan

Thanks to everyone who has signed up to help Operation Cookie Overload send Valentine’s Day treats to Afghanistan. We are still in need of a few more people; see below if you would like to participate. The mailing address will be emailed out today. While many of you are veterans of Operation Cookie Overload, we thought we’d reshare some of the most common questions about putting together a terrific military care package. 
  • Can I send chocolate? Absolutely. The weather in Kandahar is cool enough that you can send chocolate this time of year. 

  • What’s the best way to mail my care package? For heavy packages filled with lots of cookies and candy, Flat Rate Priority Mail is most often going to be your best bet. A Large Priority Mail Flat Rate box normally costs $17.90 to ship, but when you’re mailing it to an APO/FPO military address, it will only cost $15.90 no matter how much it weighs. A Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate box will cost $12.65 to ship. Remember, you must pack items in a Flat Rate box from the Postal Service in order to get the flat rate; pick up boxes for free at your local post office.
  • How long will it take my package to arrive? It should take less than two weeks to arrive in Afghanistan. Packages from Texas have been arriving in eight or nine days; if you are mailing from the East Coast, it may take even less time. 
  • Will I receive a thank-you card or acknowledgement that my package was received? Maybe, maybe not. Please keep in mind that these soldiers are working long hours, and they may not have time send you a thank-you card. If you would like to make it easier for them to respond to you, however, include a self-addressed envelope in your package. (Don't add postage to the envelope; soldiers deployed to Afghanistan don't need to put stamps on cards they mail to the United States.)
  • Where can I sign up to help out? To participate, send us a private email with your complete name and address. (Email us at or use this secure form.) 

Cupid (and Operation Cookie) Needs Your Help: Will you send Valentine’s Day love to Afghanistan?

President Obama may have announced the end of combat operations in Afghanistan, but there are still thousands of service men and women deployed to that country. And they need some Valentine’s Day cheer! In past years, we’ve sent homemade cookies overseas for the Christmas holidays. This year Operation Cookie Overload is shaking things up by sending care packages for February 14th to a team of 65 U.S. Army soldiers in Kandahar, Afghanistan. 

Join us for all the baking fun! We’re looking for a few people to send care packages (one Priority Mail box) of homemade and/or store-bought Valentine’s cookies and candy, plus a Valentine’s Day card or two. If you’d like to simply send Valentine’s Day cards (and no sweets), you’re welcome to do that too.

Packages are taking a little less than two weeks to arrive in Kandahar (when sent using Priority Mail), so care packages should be mailed on or before February 2. 

Want to know our favorite trick for Peanut Butter Blossom cookies that travel without breaking in a military care package? Click here.

If you’re interested in participating, please email Christine at We’ll email you the address of the person who will be receiving and distributing the packages. As always, please be vigilant about security and don’t post the overseas address online or in other public forums. 

We’d love to share photos of your packages, so please send us pictures. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!



Picture Perfect: Proof of Operation Cookie Elves at work

Operation Cookie has 89 boxes of sweet treats on their way to four locations in Afghanistan. And here’s the photographic evidence! Thanks to everyone who has taken time out of their very busy schedules to send some homemade loving overseas. Just a reminder: Today is the last day to mail packages for guaranteed delivery by Christmas. However, if you need a few extra days and get your boxes in the post sometime this week, the boxes will likely still make it in time. Enjoy these snapshots ...

1. Jean and her friends from the Young Survival Coalition, a support group for women with breast cancer, sent this heartfelt message.


2. Aimee had her daughter, Lucy, decorate their box with stickers. They managed to squeeze in homemade cookies, granola bars, oatmeal, hard candy, mints, and snacks.    


3. Jackie and her work colleagues participated in Operation Cookie for the second year, hosting a snack drive last month to fill their boxes. 


4. Care-package pro Judy went all out with her box: “We filled it with chewy chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal white-chocolate chunk cookies, and Milky Way brownies. I also added some Chips Ahoy, Oreos, and Nutter Butter cookies in packages plus some Christmas candies. Think we’ve got [our troops] sugared up for a while!”


5. Lisa B. made merry with the food coloring! Yum.


6. Mary and Kevin from New Hampshire packed a box for the second year in a row.


7. Ann had some unusual assistance for her second time around with Operation Cookie. “I did have a few extra cookie elves helping me this year and asked them to help with quality control to make sure the cookies were up to Elf standards,” she says. “After inspecting the cookies I am proud to announce that we received the ‘4 HOOF’ seal of approval from our inspectors. That’s Cookie Elves Pilgrim and Whinnie doing the quality control.”


8. Kathy says, “My 3-year-old grandson, Max, had a great time making Gi-Normous Snicker Doodles (his idea) as his contribution to the box of goodies.” Good pick, Max!


9. Thank YOU, Stara, for thinking of our troops again this year.


10. Lois, a second-time Operation Cookie baker, knows this trick: It is cool enough in December to send chocolate to Afghanistan without worrying about it melting. 


Bakers Needed! Operation Cookie Kicks Off for 2012

The Operation Cookie Elves are getting ready for another holiday season of sending sweet treats overseas to some of our deployed service men and women. As Bonnie from California wrote in her email yesterday: Just let me know the info, and Ill preheat the oven. Thats the spirit!

Our first Operation Cookie recipient is a small unit serving in a remote area of Afghanistan. Its a concussion care clinic that treats service members after they have sustained a concussion (e.g. in a blast incident). Their mail is delivered only once or twice a week, so they only need/want 30 boxes total. Anything more might overwhelm the mail delivery system, so we are keeping a tight watch -- at their request -- on how many boxes will be sent to this address. As of this morning, we have all 30 boxes claimed. (Emails with the mailing address were sent out this morning to the first folks who contacted me last night. Check your inbox.)

For last year’s Operation Cookie, Jami from Oregon enlisted her two sons, two nieces, and nephew (ages 8 to 15) to bake. “As we were baking it gave us an opportunity to discuss why we were sending them and the importance of people serving our country and being supported by those who are not,” she said.

This morning, I received a email from an occupational therapist in Bagram, Afghanistan, who would also love 30 boxes of treats to share. She emailed, I am looking forward to a homemade cookie!!” And we know who can help her out! I have about 15 of those boxes already claimed, but need 15 more bakers. (If you emailed me yesterday or this morning and did NOT receive an address already, you will be automatically put on this project. Address and details to come.) 

Want to help? Send an email through this website or to

Need more information on Operation Cookie 2012
Read our baking tips: Our best tips and tricks for baking and sending cookie-filled care packages.
Read how it all started: Operation Cookie Overload: Will you help a Marine mom make her deployed son’s Christmas merry and bright? 
See some in-action photos: Operation Cookie Update: 2011 ends with cookies, cookies, cookies.  


It’s a Wrap: 2012 overseas mailing deadlines for Christmas packages

The chill in the air can only mean one thing: The Christmas holidays are fast approaching, as are the deadlines for mailing packages to those serving overseas. From the U.S. Post Office, here are the dates to keep in mind if you’ll be sending holiday gifts overseas this year.

Gift boxes — especially if they contain holiday cookies — can weigh quite a bit, so use the USPS Postage Price Calculator to figure out the different ways and costs to ship your packages. We are fans of Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes and have found them to generally be the fastest and least expensive option. The large boxes cost $13.45 when mailed to an APO/FPO/DPO address, a $2 savings over the regular domestic shipping rates. Merry Christmas! 


America the Beautiful: Catching up, cookies, and new crafts

Despite the appearance of quiet on this website recently, a lot has been going on behind the scenes, including a PCS (permanent change of station) to Washington, D.C. And the Christmas spirit is already in the air! We’ve begun to receive emails from folks who would love to participate in Operation Cookie Overload again this holiday season, so we’re on the hunt for some overseas military units who want to be on the receiving end of all our cookie bakers’ sweet treats. (To learn about Operation Cookie 2011, read this and this and this.) Stay tuned for updates. 

For some Friday fun, Jennifer Savo is sharing some more of her all-American artwork. One of her first creations was a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, below, made out of license plates. (For the how-to, see “Honest! Abe Lincoln is reimagined in license plates.”) She also cut, glued, and nailed together this five-foot-wide American flag, below, also made out of license plates. (I’m lucky enough to have persuaded my sister Jennifer to give it to me.)

Most recently, Jennifer was inspired by artist Matthew Heller, who often turns song lyrics into paintings. Jennifer stenciled the lyrics to “America, the Beautiful” on a large canvas, below, to hang in her living room. It was the recessional song at her wedding, which took place four days after the 9/11 attacks. There was not a dry eye in the church. 

If you know a deployed military member who would like to receive an Operation Cookie Overload care package, please feel free to email Christine privately at Have a great weekend!



Wordless Wednesday: You know you’re shopping on a military base when the ketchup aisle looks like this ...

Location: Hanscom Air Force Base commissary in Massachusetts.



Operation Cookie Update: 2011 ends with cookies, cookies, cookies

The cookies have landed! We have confirmation that the Operation Cookie Overload packages sent to our Marines arrived in Afghanistan around Christmas. Judy, our Marine mom, was able to talk to her son via satellite phone for a short four minutes after Christmas, and he said many packages had arrived and he and his Marines were expecting another shipment within a few days. Our Army contact in Afghanistan, CPT O., also received many, many packages. He was thrilled and shared this sweet photo, below. And although we know you baked and packed cookies without any expectation of thanks, I know many of you received thoughtful notes in the mail from CPT O. 

CPT O., our Army soldier in Afghanistan, shared his Operation Cookie Overload packages with Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel nearby.Judy passes along her thanks to each and every one of you from her son and his fellow Marines.

I am in amazement of your outreach and the warmth and concern for our overseas troops. Again, I, as a mother, … cannot express how important you and your contacts mean to we the families of these young people who are making sacrifices daily on all our behalf thousands of miles from home with no comfort, in danger continuously, and far from their loved ones at the holidays. Can you imagine being cold, homesick, scared and trying to be brave and tough and performing your job daily under these circumstances? I personally have learned a lot from my 19-year-old son and his friends how important it is to let the world not forget them or their sacrifice for this nation. They are all true heroes who deserve our respect. Thank you … for your ability to make them feel a little love from the homefront. I hope you all continue the good works and even though the Christmas season is behind us, let us keep the concern and appreciation of our troops on our minds, in our hearts and actions as long as they are over there in harms way and apart from their loved ones. God bless you all.

Thanks to all our Operation Cookie Overload participants who helped end 2011 on a sugary note for our troops. And remember, there are only 342 days until Christmas 2012 …


Picture Perfect: Cookies, cookies, and more Operation Cookie Overload cookies

Now that Operation Cookie Overload has finished baking and shipping for the 2011 holidays, it’s time for more photos. Note: We have not heard whether packages have arrived to the Marines in Afghanistan, but boxes have arrived in Afghanistan to our Army soldier, who has been sharing your goodies with Army, Air Force, and Navy personnel working nearby. We will keep you updated as we get more cookie news.

#1. We think Sue from Massachusetts may have set an Operation Cookie Overload record with her flat-rate box: It weighed in at 18 pounds! Her trick: vacuuming sealing her cookies, which not only keeps homemade goodies super-fresh, but also makes it easier to pack more into a box. 


#2. In addition to a box full of homemade and store-bought treats, Ann from Texas enclosed pictures of her family on mini horses. That is sure to give our Marines a good laugh! 


#3. Manda from Wyoming works at a middle school where the students wrote letters to our service people in honor of Veterans Day. She packaged up those letters along with cookies, beef jerky, hard candies, crosswords, and suduko puzzles.


#4. Mary and Kevin from New Hampshire sent snow-filled greetings to the desert! 


#5. Ann Marie and her mini baking buddy, Alexandra, made chocolate chip cookies, M&M cookies, and peanut butter cookies with mini Reese’s peanut-butter cups. We’re not sure what’s sweeter, the baby or the cookies.


#6. Want to see what else our nation’s finest will be snacking on this holiday? Here are some more packages that were shipped out in November and December from Suzanne in Massachusetts, Valerie in Missouri, Jamie from West Virginia, and Emily from New York. We have just one word: Yum.



Operation Cookie Overload: Our Marine mom is overwhelmed by your support

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas now that all the Operation Cookie Overload elves have filled up the military mail with all sorts of holiday treats! Our final tally is impressive: We had 180 people/groups from 41 states step up to send cookies to make the holidays a bit sweeter for some of our troops in Afghanistan.

As you know, we started Operation Cookie Overload after we received an email from Judy, a Marine mom whose 19-year-old son is serving overseas this holiday. We thought we could rally some kind folks to send a few cookie care packages to Judy’s son. We had no idea so many people would want to bake and ship packages! So we expanded our mission and are successfully on our way to overloading this young man’s entire Marine unit — all 225 of them — with cookies! (We also sent some packages to an Army soldier in Afghanistan who is sharing the cookie joy too.) No one is more appreciative of your care package efforts than Judy, who shared these thoughts:

I am humbled by the outpouring of your participation in Operation Cookie Overload. What a blessing this will be to our young Marines serving our country in a foreign, far-away country during the Christmas season. I appreciate all of you and your generosity of time and caring hearts; your patriotism and prayers are greatly appreciated. May you all have a Merry Christmas and know that you have been truly an example of remembering the reason for the season: thinking of others and loving our fellow man. There is so much more to learn and love about our great country and our people, and you all are an example of the best part of being in this proud country of ours, the USA. I for one am proud to be an American and am proud of our people and appreciate our military forces and their sacrifices to keep our nation free and proud and, most of all, safe for our families to share and enjoy the love and freedoms that make us America. Thank you and may you all be blessed this day and always. —Judy


A full Santa suit for baking cookies! We love it! Lisa from Arizona and two of her sons packed their boxes with everything from white chocolate macadamia nut cookies and peanut butter cookies to Oreos and beef jerky.