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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Entries in Care packages (31)


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. 


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 …


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.


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!


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. 


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!


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 or send a secure email using this form. Happy baking!


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 or use this secure form


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!