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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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Entries in Holidays (17)


Bakers Needed! Operation Cookie Kicks Off for 2012

The Operation Cookie Elves are getting ready for another holiday season of sending sweet treats overseas to some of our deployed service men and women. As Bonnie from California wrote in her email yesterday: Just let me know the info, and Ill preheat the oven. Thats the spirit!

Our first Operation Cookie recipient is a small unit serving in a remote area of Afghanistan. Its a concussion care clinic that treats service members after they have sustained a concussion (e.g. in a blast incident). Their mail is delivered only once or twice a week, so they only need/want 30 boxes total. Anything more might overwhelm the mail delivery system, so we are keeping a tight watch -- at their request -- on how many boxes will be sent to this address. As of this morning, we have all 30 boxes claimed. (Emails with the mailing address were sent out this morning to the first folks who contacted me last night. Check your inbox.)

For last year’s Operation Cookie, Jami from Oregon enlisted her two sons, two nieces, and nephew (ages 8 to 15) to bake. “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,” she said.

This morning, I received a email from an occupational therapist in Bagram, Afghanistan, who would also love 30 boxes of treats to share. She emailed, I am looking forward to a homemade cookie!!” And we know who can help her out! I have about 15 of those boxes already claimed, but need 15 more bakers. (If you emailed me yesterday or this morning and did NOT receive an address already, you will be automatically put on this project. Address and details to come.) 

Want to help? Send an email through this website or to

Need more information on Operation Cookie 2012
Read our baking tips: Our best tips and tricks for baking and sending cookie-filled care packages.
Read how it all started: Operation Cookie Overload: Will you help a Marine mom make her deployed son’s Christmas merry and bright? 
See some in-action photos: Operation Cookie Update: 2011 ends with cookies, cookies, cookies.  


It’s a Wrap: 2012 overseas mailing deadlines for Christmas packages

The chill in the air can only mean one thing: The Christmas holidays are fast approaching, as are the deadlines for mailing packages to those serving overseas. From the U.S. Post Office, here are the dates to keep in mind if you’ll be sending holiday gifts overseas this year.

Gift boxes — especially if they contain holiday cookies — can weigh quite a bit, so use the USPS Postage Price Calculator to figure out the different ways and costs to ship your packages. We are fans of Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes and have found them to generally be the fastest and least expensive option. The large boxes cost $13.45 when mailed to an APO/FPO/DPO address, a $2 savings over the regular domestic shipping rates. Merry Christmas! 


Picture Perfect: Cookies, cookies, and more Operation Cookie Overload cookies

Now that Operation Cookie Overload has finished baking and shipping for the 2011 holidays, it’s time for more photos. Note: We have not heard whether packages have arrived to the Marines in Afghanistan, but boxes have arrived in Afghanistan to our Army soldier, who has been sharing your goodies with Army, Air Force, and Navy personnel working nearby. We will keep you updated as we get more cookie news.

#1. We think Sue from Massachusetts may have set an Operation Cookie Overload record with her flat-rate box: It weighed in at 18 pounds! Her trick: vacuuming sealing her cookies, which not only keeps homemade goodies super-fresh, but also makes it easier to pack more into a box. 


#2. In addition to a box full of homemade and store-bought treats, Ann from Texas enclosed pictures of her family on mini horses. That is sure to give our Marines a good laugh! 


#3. Manda from Wyoming works at a middle school where the students wrote letters to our service people in honor of Veterans Day. She packaged up those letters along with cookies, beef jerky, hard candies, crosswords, and suduko puzzles.


#4. Mary and Kevin from New Hampshire sent snow-filled greetings to the desert! 


#5. Ann Marie and her mini baking buddy, Alexandra, made chocolate chip cookies, M&M cookies, and peanut butter cookies with mini Reese’s peanut-butter cups. We’re not sure what’s sweeter, the baby or the cookies.


#6. Want to see what else our nation’s finest will be snacking on this holiday? Here are some more packages that were shipped out in November and December from Suzanne in Massachusetts, Valerie in Missouri, Jamie from West Virginia, and Emily from New York. We have just one word: Yum.



Operation Cookie Overload: Our Marine mom is overwhelmed by your support

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas now that all the Operation Cookie Overload elves have filled up the military mail with all sorts of holiday treats! Our final tally is impressive: We had 180 people/groups from 41 states step up to send cookies to make the holidays a bit sweeter for some of our troops in Afghanistan.

As you know, we started Operation Cookie Overload after we received an email from Judy, a Marine mom whose 19-year-old son is serving overseas this holiday. We thought we could rally some kind folks to send a few cookie care packages to Judy’s son. We had no idea so many people would want to bake and ship packages! So we expanded our mission and are successfully on our way to overloading this young man’s entire Marine unit — all 225 of them — with cookies! (We also sent some packages to an Army soldier in Afghanistan who is sharing the cookie joy too.) No one is more appreciative of your care package efforts than Judy, who shared these thoughts:

I am humbled by the outpouring of your participation in Operation Cookie Overload. What a blessing this will be to our young Marines serving our country in a foreign, far-away country during the Christmas season. I appreciate all of you and your generosity of time and caring hearts; your patriotism and prayers are greatly appreciated. May you all have a Merry Christmas and know that you have been truly an example of remembering the reason for the season: thinking of others and loving our fellow man. There is so much more to learn and love about our great country and our people, and you all are an example of the best part of being in this proud country of ours, the USA. I for one am proud to be an American and am proud of our people and appreciate our military forces and their sacrifices to keep our nation free and proud and, most of all, safe for our families to share and enjoy the love and freedoms that make us America. Thank you and may you all be blessed this day and always. —Judy


A full Santa suit for baking cookies! We love it! Lisa from Arizona and two of her sons packed their boxes with everything from white chocolate macadamia nut cookies and peanut butter cookies to Oreos and beef jerky.


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