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 Gifts (5)


Show and Tell: A gift from Iraq

Sure, it’s better to give than receive, but being on the receiving is great once in a while. Check out this awesome present! It’s our website logo painted on glass by an Iraqi, who was hired by my brother Matthew during his recent deployment. My next task is figuring out how to frame it so it can hang in my office’s window. Does anyone have any not-too-expensive ideas?


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.    


Roasted with Gratitude: Give a $2 cup of Green Beans Coffee to a G.I. Joe (or Jane)

Talk about a perk-me-up: For just $2, you can give a deployed service member a much-needed caffeine fix through “Cup of Joe for a Joe.”  The program was brewed up by Green Beans Coffee, which operates coffee shops on U.S. military bases at home and abroad, including about 45 shops in Afghanistan and Iraq. (For all you closet Army Wife fans, Claudia Joy and Roxy stopped at a Green Beans Coffee shop on the fictional Fort Marshall Army base during last Sunday’s episode.) 

About 95 percent of the gifts though "Cup of Joe for a Joe" are delivered in Iraq and Afghanistan. The remainder go to those deployed in support of OIF or OEF in Kuwait, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, and Djibouti, Africa, where Green Beans Coffee also has shops.

Buying a coffee is simple. Go to the Cup of Joe section of the Green Beans Coffee website, make a purchase of one or more $2 cups of coffee, and write a message to the recipient. Your gift triggers an email that is sent — with your note — to a randomly picked service member who has signed up for the program. The service member can then head to his or her nearby Green Beans to pick up a free coffee, courtesy of you.

Now, the soldier can use that $2 credit for coffee, of course, or a tea. But some use it to offset the cost of a MOAC, or “Mother of All Coffees.” This signature Green Beans Coffee drink is guaranteed to keep our forces on high alert. It is four shots of espresso topped with the house blend coffee and served in a giant 24-ounce cup.

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Star Spangled Beauties: Buy a flag that has flown over the U.S. Capitol

Three cheers for the red, white, and flew! An American flag that has waved its stars and stripes over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., makes a terrific gift to celebrate an anniversary, acknowledge a military promotion, or thank a friend who really stepped up in a time of need. These flags, which can be ordered only through U.S. senators and U.S. representatives, are priced at cost: A 3x5-foot cotton or nylon flag is about $13, plus shipping. Larger sizes are available too.

How popular is the U.S. Capitol flag program? More than 100,000 flag requests are filled each year.

Each flag is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity, and you can specify the date on which your flag will be flown. But don’t let the lack of a special occasion deter you from ordering a flag: It makes a great conversation piece when flown from your own home’s flagpole.

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Flat Husbands (and Flat Daddies, Sisters, and Cousins): The 2-D gift with real heart

Newlywed Amanda Stapp decided that if she couldn’t spend her first year of marriage with her husband, Jason — who deployed to Kosovo from 2008 to 2009 with the Missouri Army National Guard — she’d spend it with the second-best thing: Flat Jason.

Flat Jason was handsome, willing to tag along with Amanda wherever she went — and made by mounting a life-size photograph of her husband on foam-core board. Amanda took Flat Jason bowling, showed him off on Military Appreciation Day at the Missouri State Fair, and cooked him heart-shaped pancakes to celebrate the couple’s first wedding anniversary.

Flat Jason (above) kept Amanda company during her husband Jason’s overseas deployment. "Real" Jason joked to Amanda, “When I get home, you’re going to like Flat Jason more than me.”

“I wanted Jason to not feel like he missed everything,” says Amanda, who chronicled her yearlong adventures with Flat Jason on her blog A Time Together … Apart. Reading her blog helped the deployed Jason feel connected to his life back home. But Amanda was surprised how much Flat Jason helped her too. “It kept me busy, and I didn’t have time to get depressed or anxious because Flat Jason and I were always doing things,” she says.

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