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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Christmas Thanks and Chex Mix

My brother returned safely this fall from Iraq. (Welcome home, Matt!) That means that for the first time in years, my mom — who has sent her sons, daughter-in-law, and son-in-law on eight tours to Iraq and Afghanistan — has no family deployed to a war zone and, at least for now, no one scheduled to deploy in 2011. So how does she celebrate? By sending my husband, Kyle, a box to Boston filled with homemade Chex Mix, which is one of her favorite things to put in military care packages. And she wrote this cute poem, below, that she taped to the top of the Christmas tin. I love it! It’s a great reminder to tell our loved ones we’re glad they’re home, whether it’s been a week or — in Kyle’s case — two years.    


Holiday Gift Idea for Deployed Warriors: Send blank (yes, blank) cards 

The new Company Commander of the 108th MP Company emailed me from Iraq with a terrific idea for anyone who has loved ones deployed overseas this holiday season: Send them boxes of blank Christmas cards so they can mail holiday greetings from Iraq, Afghanistan, or wherever Hallmark stores are in short supply. I bought two boxes of cards for each of my Adopt an MP soldiers, including this “believe” card. Be sure to mail the blank cards soon: They need time to make the journey overseas — and back — by Christmas. 

The Reindeer Believe holiday cards from channel the spirit of the season.


Ho, Ho, Ho! Military mail deadlines loom for Christmas presents to Iraq and Afghanistan

It’s beginning to look at lot like Christmas! My mother-in-law Bette emailed a picture of the sweet red-white-and-blue stocking she knitted for her Adopt an MP soldier, Sarah. (Here’s just a small peek, in case Sarah is reading this posting. Merry Christmas, Sarah!) 

Because Bette’s military package will be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service instead of by flying reindeer, it is headed to the post office very soon. There are two to three weeks left to send packages and letters for guaranteed delivery by December 25th. Mark these military mail deadlines on your calendar: 

To all you fellow procrastinators, I’ve found that even when letters and presents are sent a few days after these dates, they still make it overseas in time. But why risk it? Get in the Christmas spirit — and the post office lines — early this year. For more information on 2010 holiday military mail, read “Shipping Out the Holidays to Military Heroes” from the U.S. Post Office.  

**I love the U.S. Postal Service, but I suspect Parcel Post is still delivered by mules. I avoid it and prefer to spend a few cents more for Priority Mail.


Haven’t heard from your [a] Adopt an MP soldier [b] deployed friend or [c] brother in boot camp? Send a form letter. (It works!)

We are seven months into our year-long Adopt an MP program, and lots of letters, postcards, and care packages have been sent to Iraq. Our volunteers have been real troupers, sending cheer to strangers overseas to make sure these soldiers know they are not forgotten. But while many volunteers have received thank-you letters or email updates — or have friended their soldier on Facebook — others haven’t heard that their packages have made it to Iraq. (For the record, we know that everyone in the 108th MP Company is safe, thanks to the newsletters the Company puts out every month.)

All of us understand that these young men and women have tough jobs, and we’re sure they’d prefer to spend their spare time eating cookies and relaxing, rather than stressing over letters to strangers. So here’s an idea to bridge the gap and make things easy on the soldier — and give you peace of mind that your packages are making it to their destination. 

Type up a fun form letter for your soldiers to fill out and send back to you. All they have to do is check some boxes, fill in a few blanks, and send it on its way back to the States. Easy and quick! I borrowed this idea from Jody, one of our volunteers. And it worked for both of us. (The letter, below, is one I got back last week from my soldier, Robert.) The sillier and more humorous you make your letter, the more likely you are to get a response. The form letters are great for strangers, and they are also a great option for friends in boot camp. 

Don’t forget to include a self-addressed envelope with your form letter so your soldier doesn’t have to dig out your address and find an envelope. Notice I didn’t say self-addressed stamped envelope: You don’t need to add a stamp because deployed servicemembers can send first-class mail for free


If you send a form letter to a soldier, please send us a copy! We’d love to see other fill-in-the-blank letters in action.


Happy Veterans Day

Six-year-old Joel, whose dad is in the Navy, says “Happy Veterans Day” best. Good thoughts go out today to all who are “protecting Earth,” especially the 108th MP Company in Iraq.


The L&S Cupcake Club: Adventures in cupcakes part two

A big thanks to Army spouses and bloggers Lola and Samantha, who created the online L&S Cupcake Club. It is deliciously fun! For this month’s club, I whipped up the Applesauce Spice Cupcakes. (Actually, I had to make two different batches because I forgot to add brown sugar to the cake batter during my first attempt.) So how did take two turn out?

  • I wasn’t a huge fan of the applesauce spice flavor, but that’s probably just because I’m a chocolate fanatic who believes (almost) any recipe can be made better with cocoa. 
  • The icing was very thin. Although it dripped off most of my cupcakes in not-so-pretty ways, it created — quite accidentally — a heart on this one (below). Sweet! 
  • Bottom line: I love any excuse to try new recipes, especially when they’re based around sugar. Join the L&S Cupcake Club fun next month if you too want a reason to bake. I’ll be there.

Homemade cupcake with inadvertent heart shape on top. From


Hey, sweet thing: Dress cupcakes in camo or join a cupcake club with military spouses. (Or both!)

When it comes to baking cupcakes, the question isn’t “Why?” it’s “Why not?” After these cute camouflage cupcake liners arrived in my mailbox, the question became “Why not right now?” Use them for a soldier’s welcome home party or a child’s birthday — or because it’s Friday and they’ll make you smile. These green lovelies (below) came from The Cupcake Social, which sells mini, standard, and jumbo camo liners; cost is $7 to $8 for a box of 20.

Homemade cupcakes in green camo liners. From

Want a great excuse to bake cupcakes once a month? Join the online L&S Cupcake Club, which was started by two Army spouses and bloggers: Lola at Alis Volat Propriis and Samantha at A League of Her Own. The concept is simple and delicious: Everyone is invited to join the two friends as they bake their way through the cookbook  Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone’s Favorite Treat. You don’t need to be a military spouse to participate; you just need a sweet tooth.

L&S Cupcake club logo.Here’s how it works. On the 20th of each month, Lola and Samantha post the new cupcake choice (and recipes) on their blogs; this October it’s pumpkin or applesauce spice. Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to bake a batch of sweet treats by the 30th of the month. Then either leave a comment on Lola or Samantha’s blog about your baking adventures or — if you have your own blog — do a cupcake posting and link up to all the other L&S Cupcake Club bloggers. There is still plenty of time to join in the October fun, so grab your spatulas, meet some new online friends, and get your sugar fix. 


Attention commissary shoppers: Get a free $60 coupon book

“Buy one, get one free” is one of those phrases that warms my bargain-shopping heart. So a whole booklet of BOGO coupons? Yes, please! Through the Family UNIT program, Procter & Gamble is offering authorized commissary shoppers $60 worth of coupons for staples like detergent, paper towels, and diapers. Plus, for every coupon redeemed at the commissary, P&G will donate 25 cents to the USO. Request your coupons today.



Got a minute? Give (calling card) minutes by supporting Cell Phones for SoldiersCel

You know that old, no-longer-used cell phone that’s not doing anything but hogging up space in your junk drawer? Put it to better use by donating it to Cell Phones for Soldiers. This nonprofit organization recycles old cell phones to raise money to buy phone cards for military men and women serving overseas. Here’s how easy it is to make sure soldiers can call their moms: 

Screenshot of Cellphones for Soldiers banner image.

  1. Package old cell phones in a box or envelope for shipping.
  2. Go to the Cell Phones for Soldiers website to download a free postage-paid mailing label
  3. Send the package off using First Class mail from the U.S. Postal Service.

If you’re feeling extra-generous, put the postage on the package yourself. Here’s why: If the charity doesn’t have to pay postage for your package, it can spend that money on phone cards. (You can still use a preprinted label. Simply place your postage over the area that says “No postage necessary if mailed in the United States,” like I did, below.

Padded mailing envelope addressed to Cell Phone for Soldiers with an old flip cell phone lying on top of the envelope.From

Request a free prepaid calling card for your deployed loved one. Cell Phones for Soldiers will mail a prepaid calling card to any servicemember stationed overseas upon request. Simply enter that person’s name and APO/FPO address in the “Request Calling Cards” section of the website. (I just ordered one for my Adopt an MP soldier.)


Military spouses: Have you requested your absentee voting ballots?

The abundance of Halloween candy at the commissary means one thing (besides impending sugar overload and kids in cute costumes): Election Day is fast approaching. But there is still time for military spouses to request absentee ballots for the November 2nd elections. It’s a simple process that takes less time than reading this post. To request yours, go to the Federal Voting Assistance Program website, which provides voting help for servicemembers and their spouses. The site will walk you through the easy process of filling out an absentee ballot request form, which you must print out and send — via snail mail — to your home state. Don’t delay: Deadlines for ballot requests vary by state. In Texas, for example, it must be received by October 26; in Alaska, it’s October 23.

Why might you need an absentee ballot? Perhaps you will be away from home on R&R or a business trip. Or, like me, you may be registered to vote in a different state than the one in which you live. Thanks to the 2009 Military Spouse Residency Relief Act, qualified military wives and husbands no longer have to change their official state of residence simply because their spouses’ current military assignments took them to a new state. So, for instance, when the Army moved my husband and me from Fort Drum, New York, to Massachusetts last year, I was not obligated to become a Massachusetts resident. I chose to keep my New York residency. That means that although I live in Boston, I pay state taxes to New York, my driver’s license is from New York, and, perhaps most importantly, I vote in New York. 

Two tricks military spouses need to know. As a military spouse who lives in one state and votes in another, I found the “address” sections on the ballot request form confusing. I talked to both a JAG officer (military lawyer) at Hanscom Air Force Base and an election official, who clarified how to correctly fill out the form. This is what to do:

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