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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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Back from Iraq! Our adopted soldiers from the 108th MP Company arrive home safely

Here is some news that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face: Just before midnight last Thursday, all the soldiers from the 108th Military Police (MP) Company (Airborne) arrived home in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, after a year-long deployment to Iraq. We are so glad they are back in the USA, safe and sound. 

This homecoming is especially meaningful to the volunteers in our Adopt an MP program. These fantastic Americans (plus one outstanding Australian) ‘adopted’ 38 unmarried soldiers from the 108th MP Company, sending letters and care packages month after month. Their creativity was impressive. One person sent multiple shipments of boxed macaroni and cheese at the request of her soldier, while another sent water balloon toys. And one family sent Duck tape, reasoning that “ ... it’s something you can never have too much of ... ” We hope the little bits of home we sent overseas gave these young men and women something to smile about too. 

Although they didn’t do it for glory or recognition, we’d like to give a big Hooah! to the Adopt an MP volunteers. There aren’t a lot of people who would do what they did: spend time and money over the course of an entire year to make sure a stranger feels honored and remembered. A million thank yous to these fine folks:

Becky, Gayla, Franni, Clesha, Sandy, Connie, Michele, Suzanne, Mari, Jennifer, Jodi, Sue, Chris, Jody, Sarah, Deborah, Elizabeth, Ellena, Sheila, Bette, Julianne, Judi, Max, Joni, Tom, Joleigh, Kristene, Charmaine, Ron, Anna, Frank, Jordan, Wendy, and Debbie.

Goodbye, Iraq! Welcome home, soldiers of the 108th MP Company! This banner from Jackson and Abigail was just one of many items that made their way to deployed soldiers as part of our Adopt an MP program.


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.


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.


Adopt an MP Update: Care packages, countdowns, and congrats

What to do on a lazy summer Sunday? Share five pieces of good news about our Adopt an MP soldiers from the 108th MP Company, which is currently serving in Iraq.  

#1. They’ve finished four months of their tour. That’s 120 days or 2,880 hours or 172,800 minutes. In other words, they’ve been gone a long time, but every day they’re closer to coming home.

#2. They recently moved into a new, concrete building (below). It’s a big improvement on the old dog-kennel-turned-office-trailer from which some of them were operating.

#3. Their company motto is “Double Stack,” which is displayed on the sign below. It refers to the fact that the company is both Airborne (they can jump out of planes) and Air Assault (they can rappel out of helicopters). On their uniforms, the soldiers of the 108th MP Company wear both Airborne wings and Air Assault badges, one stacked on top of the other. When a soldier has both, he or she is considered to be “double stacked.”

Image of new building for 108th MP Company. From new building for the 108th MP Company from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

#4. Seven of our Adopt an MP soldiers have been promoted while in Iraq. Congratulations!

#5. Good cheer continues to head to Iraq thanks to letters and care packages from our Adopt an MP volunteers. We got a big chuckle out of the care package Sheila from Ohio recently sent to her soldier. It was packed with goodies like a Blazing Saddles DVD, Axe body wash, hand sanitizer, playing cards, toy water guns — and duct tape. “My middle son, Thom, said we needed to include the Duck Tape because it’s something you can never have too much of, LOL,” Sheila explained in an email. Thom, we think that’s a smart motto to live by, whether you’re in the military or not!


The 108th MP Company rocks (and so do you!)

Today is a great day: All of our Adopt an MP soldiers have homes! A big thank you to Debbie from Louisiana, whose family adopted our last soldier this week. She joins our other amazing volunteers, who include two World War II veterans. The 108th MP Company still has a long tour ahead, so stay tuned for more opportunities to help boost their morale. Next up: We’d like to do something creative to mark the 108th’s “halfway to home” point in October. Suggestions are welcome!

Kids showing off a hand-made poster which reads '108th MP Company Rocks!' From and Abigail from Iowa show off their homemade banner, which is being packed into a care package for their adopted soldier this weekend. These artists deserve a big “hooah!”


Record speed! One care package makes it to Iraq in 5 days

Last Friday, May 28, four-year-old Greta and six-year-old Devon (with a tiny bit of help from their mom, Jennifer) sent care packages to Iraq — including one to their Adopt an MP soldier. We got word that at least one of the boxes arrived in Baghdad yesterday, June 2. That’s five quick days, counting both the weekend and Memorial Day holiday. Kudos to the folks handling military mail!

Picture of a child's painting of bunny rabbits, titled Greta, 4, titled her masterpiece "Army Bunnies." The girl's got talent! It took just five days for a Priority Mail package with this picture to reach its destination in Iraq.

Greta and Devon’s packages were sent through the U.S. Postal Service using Priority Mail, which we have found is fast and cost-effective. One piece of advice we learned the hard way: Think twice before using Parcel Post mail. Sure, it may save you a few bucks, but the trade-off is transit time. Recently, a (non-military) birthday gift sent via Parcel Post took a whopping 21 days just to move from Des Moines, Iowa, to Boston. That’s more than enough time to turn homemade cookies in a care package from scrumptious to stale. 


9 Most Wanted Care Package Items (and 3 things to skip)

Stuffing care packages for soldiers you know is easy: You already know their favorite cookies, their taste in movies, and if they have a dry or silly sense of humor. But Sheila from Ohio — who was one of the first to sign up for our Adopt an MP program — asks an excellent question: What do you send to a young man or woman who is (at least for now) a stranger? Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, plus some care-package-sending gurus, weigh in with these can’t-miss ideas.
#1. Low-tech games. In high demand are decks of cards and inexpensive poker chips.
#2. Old DVDs. Don’t splurge on the newest movie releases. The fact is, the black market is alive and well in Iraq, so new movies are readily available. Instead, search for classics like Smokey and the Bandit, The Jerk, and Raising Arizona, which you’ll often find in the bargain bins.
#3. Anything girly. For female soldiers, of course. Think scented soaps, sachets, nail files, and nice shampoo and conditioner. “You can always get the basics in Iraq,” says one female soldier, “but the good stuff is much harder to come by.”

It's care package heaven in this Navy pilot's office in Iraq: Two boxes of Utz chips and snacks, Girl Scout cookies, and a kid's drawing tacked to the wall.
#4. Individually wrapped snacks. Potato chips, M&Ms, and anything from Little Debbie will be a crowd pleaser. They’re the right size — and easy to pack — for eating on patrol or at a work desk.
#5. Big and small resealable plastic baggies. If you’re going to mail larger packages of snacks, send along small baggies so that your soldier can make individual snack bags (see #4). Send big baggies too so leftovers can be kept fresh and safe from mice and bugs.
#6. Anything fun! Mari from Australia — another of our Adopt an MP participants — has been sending care packages to American and Australian troops for a long time. One of her favorite gifts: a water-balloon launcher. “I wasn’t quite sure what he [Mari’s newly adopted MP] would need or could use so I just took a punt on it being something to make him smile,” she says. “Oh, okay — confession time — also to make him the envy of everyone else in his unit.” (To the 108th MP Company: We look forward to seeing pictures of that toy in action from Iraq!)

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Adopt an MP Update: All boots are on the ground in Iraq

Our adopted soldiers from the 108th MP Company (ABN/AASLT) are officially in Iraq. The countdown until they come home can begin! Our terrific group of volunteers will be sending out their first letters this week. Hooah! We still have 14 soldiers waiting to be adopted. If you are interested, please join us and Adopt an MP. Straight from Iraq, here is a picture of their “new” command post. Stay tuned for more updates.

Photograph of a pale yellow corrugated metal shack, which looks somewhat trailer-like. It has small windows and is rusty in places. From the Iraq command post of the 108th MP Company from Fort Bragg, it's been 90 degrees and humid this week. The building is small: 15 x 30 feet.


AIRBORNE! Help us adopt 50 single soldiers who are heading to Iraq

Several readers have written to us to say, I’m ready to bake cookies or dye Easter eggs for care packages, but I don’t know any soldiers serving overseas. Here’s your chance to send some American cheer to Iraq. In early April, the 108th Military Police (MP) Company (Airborne) from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will deploy to Iraq for 12 months. They will be performing Law and Order operations in three different parts of the country. Some of these men and women will be on their third, fourth, and even fifth overseas tours. We’re ready to put all our care package skills to work: We are going to adopt the 50 or so single soldiers in the 108th MP Company. Will you help? It promises to be an uplifting task. 

Safe travels to Captain Matthew Hofmann (pictured, far left, in Kosovo in 2002) and the 108th Military Police Company, who are off to Iraq.

We’re still working out the details, but these are the basics:

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