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.

WHY WE CARE SO MUCH ABOUT OUR TROOPS (AKA OUR FIRST POST)

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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Sunday
Dec112011

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.

Sunday
Dec112011

Operation Cookie Overload: Have you mailed your package?

We received emails from several folks yesterday who were at the post office mailing their Operation Cookie Packages. As you know, yesterday was the military mailing deadline to guarantee delivery by Christmas. However, if you weren’t able to get your packages in the mail yet, please go ahead and mail them anyway. If it’s mailed in the next few days, it has a chance of making it to Afghanistan by December 25th. And if packages arrive overseas a few days late, that’s OK too. The holiday spirit will still be welcome. 

Shannon from Kentucky enlisted her coworkers to help her put together this box of homemade brownies, Rice Krispie treats, chocolate chip cookies, and store-bought cookies.

Thursday
Dec082011

The countdown continues: Two mailing days left for Operation Cookie Overload. (Plus more photos, of course!)

Cookies from 41 states are heading overseas for Operation Cookie Overload! Although we haven’t heard from our Marines yet, we have confirmation that cookies began arriving already to our Army soldier (who we’ll call Captain O) in Afghanistan. CPT O is thrilled with all the packages, which he said he has been handing out to Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel nearby. (And he particularly raved about someone’s molasses cookies, so if that was you, nice job!) As soon as we hear about our Marines, we will let you all know. In the meantime, you have two mailing days left (including today) for Operation Cookie Overload. Packages that are sent after Saturday, December 10th, may not arrive before Christmas. 

Now for more good stuff: Pictures!

#1. Girl Scout Troop 10028 from Hill City, Kansas, really got in the spirit of the season! They sent a big box to our Marines this week. “We did send Christmas goodies, but they’re jam-packed under the beef jerky!” says Crystal, their troop leader. “They did such a good job collecting goodies to send that we had to donate some of the overflow to our local food bank since it didn’t all fit.” What a thoughtful gesture. If we could award these girls an Operation Cookie Overload badge, we would.

 

#2. Jennifer from Vermont had two darling helpers, who packed a big box with homemade cookies and — perhaps more importantly — handwritten cards.  

 

#3. Becky, who participated in our Adopt an MP program, is a pro at military care packages, as these photos attest. She and her daughter packed more than we’ve ever seen in one box!

 

#3. Note to our Marines: If there’s a cookie with a giant bite taken out of it, we know where to find the culprit. Kathy enlisted her daughters, 2-year-old Lila and 14-year-old Riley, to bake all sorts of cookies. “We made homemade chocolate chip/oatmeal/M&M cookies, old-fashioned sugar cookies, peanut brittle, cappuccino mix, and seasoned crackers for our guy!” Kathy says. “Also, we will be including a Christmas card, and we used snowman gift wrap as our packing.”

We hope the lines aren’t too long at the post office this weekend!

Wednesday
Dec072011

Our favorite cookie trick for military care packages, plus more Operation Cookie Overload pictures

Our very first website posting almost two years ago remains one of our most popular: “A Perfect Kiss: Learn the secret to cookies that travel without getting trashed.” The idea? Take yummy peanut butter blossoms cookies, which are impossible to stack in military care packages ...

... and instead of inserting the Hershey’s Kisses right side up, insert them upside-down. Delicious and easy to stack and pack in holiday care packages.

 

We love that our Operation Cookie Overload bakers have put this handy trick to good use! These pretty holiday tins from Lois in Ohio are on their way to Afghanistan filled with upside-down Kiss cookies:

 

These cuties were dressed up for the holidays in green and red sprinkles by Kristy, who has a son deployed with the Air Force, yet still made time to bake for our Marines.  

 

And from Jami in Oregon, who baked these treats with her sons, nieces, and nephew. Quite a spread!

And the countdown continues. There are four mailing days left (including today) to get your Operation Cookie Overload packages in the mail for guaranteed delivery by Christmas. 

Tuesday
Dec062011

Operation Cookie Overload Update: More photo proof that our cookie elves have been busy! (And 5 mailing days left …)

Operation Cookie Overload is in high gear! Just a reminder that all military care packages must be sent on or before Saturday, December 10th, in order to guarantee delivery by Christmas. A huge, enormous, bigger-than-big thanks to the 178 people/groups who are putting together treat-filled Operation Cookie Overload boxes for our troops in Afghanistan. The photos you are sending are amazing! Take a break from your baking and take a peek at a few of them:

#1. “We made cookies for the troops and the kids had a great time,” says Jami from Oregon. “My two sons, two nieces, and nephew (ages 8 to 15) loved doing it. 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.”

 

#2. Kelly from Kansas had a little helper in the kitchen: a sprinkles-wielding three-year-old. (Kelly is part of a group that sent packages to both our Marines and our Army soldier in Afghanistan. Read the letter a 12-year-old from their group wrote to our troops.)


 

#3. The cutest Mississippi cookies from Linda in — where else? — Mississippi. Her care packages included lots of store-bought treats too, which are perfect because they will stay fresh long after the New Year.

 

#4. “We ended up making the giant molasses, oatmeal no-bake drop cookies, Mexican wedding cookies, and sugar,” says Sarah from Massachusetts. “The large flat rate box did fill fast. I used tootsie rolls as the packing foam … Should be quite the sugar feast!”

 

#5. We don’t have photos to share of Kay’s Operation Cookie Overload efforts out in Arizona, but you’ll get the picture: Kay put up a flyer to ask folks from her church to “adopt” a military cookie box by paying for its postage — and she’s had 40 boxes adopted! Twenty will go to our Marines in Afghanistan, and 20 will go to another soldier the group has adopted. “I had never bought a 25-pound bag of  flour before — and we went through two!” says Kay, who baked 1,200 cookies on Sunday. (That is not a typo: 1,200 cookies in just one day!) “The house smells like Mrs. Claus’ or the Gingerbread House!” Her group also enlisted children to write cards, which will be enclosed in the boxes. Kay, thank you for all your Christmas joy!

Sunday
Dec042011

Operation Cookie Overload Update: We’ve got pictures! (Plus: 6 mailing days left...)

Operation Cookie Overload has been as busy as Santa’s elves this time of year. And we’ve got the photos to prove it! (We will post more pictures tomorrow.) So without further ado …

#1. Sunshine State Cookie Swap. An annual neighborhood cookie swap in Florida that took place this past Saturday decided to show our troops a little (actually, a lot of) love. These lovely ladies filled and packed 20 boxes to ship to our Marines in Afghanistan! They solicited donations of $250 too to help cover the cost of postage. Let’s give them a giant Hooah!

 

#2. Breast Cancer Support Organization from Atlanta. We think assembling care packages is a fantastic use for a conference room!


#3. Sugar Cookies With a History. Angela and Tony from Maryland dedicated an entire day to baking traditional Italian sugar cookies using a recipe Angela says has been handed down for generations. “The recipe makes 500 cookies, so it’s an all-day production,” she says. “It holds its own in regards to shelf life. … We have been sending them for years. … Additionally the boxes were packed with magazines, gum, fruit snacks, rice krispy treats and hot cocoa. Our hopes are that the packages (we’re sending three) … bring a little joy to the soldier on the other end. We included a note about our family, and a few pictures.” Perfect!

 

#4. Three Lovely School Kids from Iowa. “My children and I made this a project for our homeschooling,” says Jolie, a mom from Iowa. “It worked out great. They each chose a cookie and had to find all of the needed ingredients at the store. Then they each made their own cookie.” Now, that’s homework you can really dig your teeth into! 

 

#5. And Last, But Certainly Not Least, Post Office Employees! Some of the fine folks from a California post office who help you ship your packages overseas sent a few of their own. Now that is good customer service!

 

More pictures to be posted tomorrow! Don’t forget: There are six mailing days left (including today) in order to guarantee that Priority Mail packages will arrive by Christmas. If you would like to participate in Operation Cookie Overload, send an email to christinestrength@me.com or send a secure email using this form. Happy baking!

Friday
Dec022011

Words Matter: Read one 12-year-old’s Operation Cookie Overload letter

Brandon, a 12-year-old from Kansas, included this letter in his Operation Cookie Overload packages, which his group sent to both our Marines and our Army soldier in Afghanistan. How thoughtful and articulate! Thanks, Brandon, for helping us bring some holiday cheer to our men and women serving overseas! (Click the image, below, to enlarge and read.) 

We have eight mailing days left for Operation Cookie Overload. If you would like to participate, you still have time. Send an email to christinestrength@me.com or use this secure form

Sunday
Nov272011

Operation Cookie Overload Update: 13 mailing days left, 225 hungry Marines!

This Thanksgiving weekend, we’re grateful for the sacrifices of the men and women in our military, especially those who spent the holiday far from their families and friends. We’re also grateful for the amazing supporters of our troops who are participating in Operation Cookie Overload. Our numbers keep rising: We now have 132 people/groups from 35 states sending cookie-filled care packages to Marines in Afghanistan for Christmas!

We started Operation Cookie Overload to help make the holidays sweeter for a 19-year-old Marine who will be in Afghanistan this holiday season. We thought we could get a handful of nice folks to send a few cookie care packages to this young man to share with his buddies. We had no idea so many people would want to bake and ship packages! So we’re now on a mission to overload his entire Marine unit — all 225 of them — with cookies!

If you haven’t joined us yet, there is still time. (See our contact information below.) The deadline for mailing Priority Mail packages through the U.S. Postal Service is December 10th in order to guarantee delivery by December 25th. Please keep spreading the word about Operation Cookie Overload!

Terri from Virginia sent her Operation Cookie Overload boxes right before Thanksgiving. Her treats? Three kinds of cookies, beef jerky, and lots of candies.

So who is participating? We have Vietnam veterans and Gulf War veterans. There are grandmothers and their grandchildren, Marine moms, Army wives, a Marine sister, and roommates who just want to say “thanks.” We have Postal Service employees and firefighters, hospital workers and Girl Scout troops. There are even several cookie swap parties that will be making a few extra boxes for our Marines. We can’t think of a more thoughtful way to get in the holiday spirit. 

For those of you who are still putting your packages together, we want to pass along this terrific tip from Sharon from Indiana, who says she’s been sending cookie-filled military care packages for years: “I usually send things that have both nuts and NO nuts with my packages. I always mark each inner bag with what the item is and if it has nuts or not. I don’t figure the Marines that are in remote areas usually have allergies to nuts, but not everyone likes to eat them.” 

Heart-shaped brownies heading to Afghanistan for Operation Cookie Overload from Marguerite from California. (Click the picture, above, to read her blog posting.)

Do you have questions about Operation Cookie Overload? Get the details here:

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Friday
Nov182011

Operation Cookie Overload Update: Our Marine mom says “thank you”

Just 22 mailing days left for Operation Cookie Overload! Ginger from Ohio — along with her adorable three-year-old daughter/helper, below — mailed off a big box of homemade cookies today to our Marines in Afghanistan. Yay! When Judy, the mom of our 19-year-old Marine, heard that we have 79 generous people like Ginger in 21 states signed up to send her son and his unit holiday treats, she was thrilled. Here’s what she had to say:

WOW! I am so pleased to hear this, it will really give these Marines a boost! Knowing they are thought of and appreciated by so many kind, thoughtful people all over the country! … You all honestly have no idea how much this mom appreciates all of you! … May you be richly blessed for your thoughtfulness, you all are truly appreciated by all of the moms associated and the wives and family members; sending hugs and many good wishes your way. 

Judy had one update on food requests. She says because her son and his fellow Marines are out on the front lines, they are eating a lot of MREs (meals ready to eat), which don’t have a reputation for being very tasty. So they love any foods that give their taste buds something different. Any other nonperishable food items you want to send with your cookies is welcome, including canned or dried fruit, beef jerky, hot chocolate mix, and portable instant coffee packages.  

Ginger baked and sent four batches of treats for Operation Cookie Overload. (Love the aprons!)

And we have a few housekeeping items:

 Happy baking!

Wednesday
Nov162011

Want to say “Merry Christmas” to a deployed loved one? Mail a tree! 

Put the ho-ho-ho into the holiday season for your deployed service member with this fun project: Send an artificial Christmas tree, then ask all of your friends and family to each send one ornament to decorate the tree. My family and friends did just that for my brother Mark during his deployment to Iraq. None of the ornaments were expensive (sending pricey ornaments to a war zone doesn’t make much sense), but they all brought some holiday cheer abroad.  

Christmas in Baghdad was a little less lonely with a Christmas tree and ornaments from home.

To do this project yourself, keep these things in mind:

  1. Ship the tree and ornaments soon. Military mail deadlines for guaranteed Christmas delivery are fast approaching. Priority Mail packages must be sent by early December in order to arrive overseas by December 25th.
  2. It’s OK to be a cheapskate. Don’t send a valuable, hand-blown glass ornament — or one that is a  family heirloom — into a war zone. You can find interesting, special ornaments for just a few dollars at all sorts of stores this time of year.  
  3. Buy a four-foot (or shorter) artificial tree. Pick one that has branches and trunk that pull apart for easy, compact packing. The mailing box for a tree will be oversize no matter how efficiently its packed, so be prepared to spend extra on postage.  
  4. Ask each sender to mail just one ornament. Part of the fun of this project is that the recipient gets lots (and lots) of little packages spread out over a few weeks. If packed in a small box, one ornament can be sent for about $5 through the US Postal Service.

We also did this project for my husband, Kyle, during his first tour in Iraq. It is a special way to say “Happy Holidays” to someone away from home.

The first of two Christmases Kyle spent with the 1st Mountain Division in Iraq.