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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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.



New! Show off our fun, fabulous (and free!) website buttons

Go ahead, grab us! Or at least grab our buttons! If you have a blog or website — and you like ours — please check out our fun new buttons. Show the world that you are The Strength Behind the Strong! Head over to our “Grab our buttons” page to pick your favorite. Each one (shown below) represents a different branch of the military. (Why are there two Navy buttons? Read our “Grab our buttons” page for the family drama behind the color picks.) Coming soon, we’ll have a page of our favorite buttons from other websites. Enjoy!

 Image of's logo in red, white and blue, followed by the logo rendered in the colors of the various branches of the U.S. Military. Army (green and gold), Navy (navy blue and gold, and navy blue and sky blue), Air Force (sky blue and pale blue), Marine Corps (red and gold), and Coast Guard (warm blue and orange). From



Need a nudge to tackle your to-do list? Get nagged (for free!) with HassleMe

Do you sometimes wish you had a personal drill sergeant barking orders at you? “Send a postcard every week to your best friend in boot camp!” “Put up posts on your family’s deployment blog every three days!” “Eat something other than chocolate when your husband is gone for field training!” (Hey, don’t judge.) The clever folks over at the British website have you covered. Their motto says it all: “Because sometimes in life, you just need to be nagged.” Simply enter your email address, plus what you want to be hassled about, and how often. To keep you motivated — and on your toes — you will get hassled by email at irregular times. 

HassleMe loves to nag so much, it even does it for free. 

Screenshot of's form for setting up an automatic 'hassle'. From

So, spill: What do you need to be nagged about?


Go Green, Save Green: The secret to reusing boxes for military care packages

Attention fellow military care package senders: Raise your hand if you save and reuse boxes like this well-worn one (below), which has clearly bumped and banged its way through the mail system several times. You’ll love this quick trick that gives new life to those old boxes while also removing the hassles of inking out labels and trying to squeeze on yet another address and customs form. 

Image of a cardboard box for military care packages covered in crossed-out mailing labels. From

It’s simple. First, untape every box flap. Next, locate the glued seam (there is usually just one) and carefully tear it apart so that it lays flat like the box below. Leave all those ugly stickers right where they are.

Image of the military care package box cut along the glued seam and flattened out into a single layer of cardboard. From

Finally, turn the box inside out, then refold and retape so that all the old labels and hand-scrawled addresses are hidden on the inside. 

Image of the military care package box taped back together inside-out. Old labels are on the inside, clean cardboard is on the outside. From

Good as new! Send your freshened-up box on its way. It’s got many more trips left in it.

Free boxes are great, now how about some ideas for free items to put inside that care package? Check out “Zip, zilch, nada, zero: Useful and fun care package items that won’t cost you a penny.”


Bracelet Giveaway: We have a winner!

Drumroll, please! The winner of our “Support Our Troops” bracelet giveaway is Charmaine! We met Charmaine this spring when she volunteered for our Adopt an MP program. The son of one of her best friends is an MP, and this was her way to offer support. Congratulations, and we hope you like your sparkly bauble!

We loved reading all the comments about your favorite patriotic songs. (For the record, Charmaine’s is “Arlington” by Trace Adkins.) According to our (absolutely nonscientific) survey, your top picks are:
  • “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood
  • Almost anything by Toby Keith, including “American Soldier” and “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” 
  • “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Thanks also to JG from the blog “Me and My SoldierMan” for her recommendation of “O America” by Celtic Woman. We had never heard the song before, but it’s officially one of our new favorites. The lyrics are especially touching because they’re sung not by Americans but by a group of Irish women. Enjoy!




Thank-yous are even more special when they’re a surprise

The little kindnesses shown to our military men and women make me smile. This past Saturday night at Boston’s Fenway Park, while we were watching the Red Sox play, a 22-year-old civilian standing in SRO with us bought my husband, who is almost 20 years his senior, a beer to say Thank you for your service.

What a sweet — and unexpected — gesture.

A few weeks ago, Kyle and I decided to be hometown tourists and walk Boston’s Freedom Trail, which is a marked path that leads visitors past historic sites like the Old South Meeting House and the USS Constitution. And unexpectedly — because it’s not listed on the official Freedom Trail map — we found this memorial to American servicemen and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s tucked in a beautiful tree-shaded garden behind Old North Church, where Paul Revere’s lanterns hung to warn of the impending arrival of the British. The garden memorial is made of dog tags strung between wood poles; from a distance it looks like a beautiful, woven tapestry. It’s simple and solemn and a lovely thank you to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

The small sign reads "This Memorial Garden is to honor the men and women in the Armed Forces and the civilians who have lost their lives in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. We pray for all victims of war. May their souls and the souls of all the departed rest in peace."

Thousands of dog tags sway in tribute to those who couldn't come home.

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Giveaway! Win this “support our troops” Swarovski crystal bracelet

Because this week is our six-month website anniversary — and because we just passed 500 fans on Facebook, and because we’ve had so much fun meeting supporters of our military men and women from around the world — we’re giving away one oh-so-pretty Troop Awareness bracelet ($79) from the jewelry shop Elisa Ilana. The elegant, glittery bracelet features yellow Swarovski crystal — a nod to yellow support ribbons — plus rhodium silver and 14kt gold-filled accents. What’s not to love? Plus sales of the bracelet help a cause we hold near and dear: Elisa Ilana donates 10 percent of its proceeds to support groups for spouses of deployed troops. 

Enter our giveaway to win this Troop Awareness bracelet! Image is copyright © Elisa Ilana (

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post that answers this question:
 “What is your favorite patriotic song?”  

It’s tough to choose just one, isn’t it? On my top 10 list is Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” I don’t care that some people think the song is hokey — I love it!


  1. One entry per person, please. 
  2. Facebook fans of The Strength Behind the Strong will get one bonus entry (for two entries total) if you also write in the comments below that you are a fan of us on Facebook. (Go here to “like” us, if you haven’t already.) After telling us your favorite patriotic song, just add “I’m also a fan on Facebook” to your comment. We will count it as two entries; you do not need to submit two separate comments.
  3. Include a valid email address where requested in the comment form. Your email address will NOT be published.
  4. The deadline for entries is 11:59 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, August 25, 2010.
  5. You must have a U.S. or APO/AE address for shipping purposes. 
  6. One entry will be selected at random and announced on the website on Thursday, August 26, 2010.

Click to read more ...


Three! Two! One! Military countdown clocks herald good times (and two are free) 

What important event is on your calendar this year? Your sister’s graduation from boot camp? A friend coming home on leave from Afghanistan? Track the time until day zero with these three countdown clocks for your phone, computer, and desk.

#1. Big Day Lite App 
Use it: On your iPhone
Monitor the “days until” your special occasion with the free Big Day Lite app, which you can customize with a title and your favorite picture. (We are partial to any photo with camo or babies.) There also is a paid version of this app called Big Day, which costs 99 cents; it has a few more bells and whistles and allows you to count down to multiple dates. But we found the free (“Lite”) version to be all we needed. Download Big Day Lite from iTunes.

Add your own photo and description to the free Big Day Lite iPhone app, which makes it doubly fun to count down to a special occasion.

#2. Soldier Countdown Clock
Use it: On Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and more
Price: Free 
Copy and paste the free HTML code from into your blog or social networking site so your friends can count down the remaining days, hours, minutes, and seconds along with you. Note: For OPSEC reasons, don’t post specific countdown information about deployments on websites or blogs that can be read by the general public. Instead, consider counting up (instead of down), tracking the number of days your loved one has been gone.

Click to read more ...


“Free” mail means your deployed sweetie can afford to send you a letter a day!*

Pop quiz: What appears to be missing from this letter? It was sent from Iraq to the United States by one of our servicemen. 

Image of an envelope sent from Iraq to New York with 'free mail' written in the upper right hand corner. From letters from locations such as Kuwait and Afghanistan arrive in your mailbox, you may notice that the military sender has written “free mail” where the stamp is usually affixed.

The answer is a stamp. But that’s not a problem for the U.S. Postal Service or the Military Postal Service, which offer “free mail” privileges for certain warriors who are serving outside the United States. Currently, those deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Qatar, Macedonia, and Uganda are among the members of our military who can send free mail. (The U.S. Postal Service website has a complete list of military locations with free mail.) It applies to letters and postcards only; our military men and women must pay postage to send packages home.

Don’t try this trick when sending letters from the USA, however. If you want your letters to get to your overseas sweetheart, you’ll need to add stamps.

How free mail impacts your care packages. Blank stationery (paper, cards, envelopes, postcards) is an excellent addition to boxes headed overseas. One of our Adopt an MP participants even includes a few self-addressed envelopes in her boxes to make it easier for her soldier to write back. But because postage is not required for a letter’s trip back to the States, she knows it’s smart — not stingy — to skip the stamps.    

Note: The envelope shown above was sent in 2006, so it doesn’t reveal information about an active military mailing address.

*Hey, we can all dream, can’t we?


Zip, zilch, nada, zero: Useful and fun care package items that won’t cost you a penny

Freedom may not be free, but the goodies you gather for your care packages can be. Get creative with these nine tips to fill a box without emptying your wallet.

#1. Popular magazines. Instead of tossing your magazines into a recycling bin, send them overseas. But don’t go digging in the basement to unearth your stack of Reader’s Digest magazines from the 1970s. If you’re not interested in reading it, chances are the troops aren’t either.

“General newsstand publications such as Maxim and Esquire, which regularly feature what the Greatest Generation might have called ‘pinups’ or ‘cheesecake,’ are ... highly sought after by troops in some areas,” commented Charlie Sherpa, a soldier who blogs at, after our “9 Most Wanted Care Package Items (and 3 items to skip)” post.  “You can also send automotive, humor, hunting, military history, and other magazines — they also have a lot of trade-and-swap value, with both U.S. and Allied personnel.”

Our secret to cheerful care packages? Tie a pretty ribbon around even the most ordinary objects, including recycled magazines.

#2. Catalogs. Help a female servicemember look forward to the day she can trade her BDUs for something prettier by shipping her the mail-order catalogs that land in your mailbox. Think of it as remote window shopping from Iraq or Afghanistan. Send favorites like J. Crew, Lands’ End, and Sundance Catalog. For cooks and bakers, save up catalogs from Williams-Sonoma. For gardeners, dig up some seed catalogs, such as Burpee.

Click to read more ...