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 Volunteering (5)


Update: Farewell to Operation Helmetliner

After we profiled Operation Helmetliner in February (“Enlisting All Knitters: Help keep a soldier warm in Afghanistan”), many of our readers stepped up to help. Last week, Citizen S.A.M. — which runs Operation Helmetliner — announced that it is ending its program. Why? The U.S. military is now issuing its own helmet liners.

The Citizen S.A.M. newsletter explains:

As we gear up for Operation Santa, we say goodbye to a wonderful program, Operation Helmetliner. …

[The military] will no longer be allowed to accept the liners you have so lovingly made. 

If anyone has any completed liners ready to send to us, please do so quickly. [Citizen S.A.M.] will be allowed to ship completed liners until November 1st. These will be distributed by the military as goodwill gestures from the soldiers to the local population. …  After November 1st, we can no longer ship them.

Thank you all for your awesome support of this very wonderful project over the past 5 years. Please use your skills and talents, care and love in other ways to support our troops.

For more information, visit And keep checking back with us at, where we will bring you more ways to support our troops.

Additional information as of August 17, 2010: Citizen S.A.M. will continue to accept handmade wool scarves. It is the helmet liners, neck gaiters, and stocking caps that it will no longer be allowed to ship to our troops after November 1, 2010.

Screenshot of Citizen S.A.M. website. From


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:

Click to read more ...


UPDATE! Enlisting All Knitters: Help keep a soldier warm in Afghanistan

July 27, 2010: Please note that Operation Helmetliner will be ending in November 2010. For details, read our post “Update: Farewell to Operation Helmetliner.”

Wow! We continue to receive great feedback on our February story “Enlisting All Knitters: Help keep a soldier warm in Afghanistan,” and we know many of our readers already have picked up their knitting needles to help. In the last few days, we’ve received several requests for direct links to all of the knitting patterns for Operation Helmetliner, which is a service project run by Citizen S.A.M. Your wish is our command! You’ll find the direct links, below, to patterns for helmet liners, scarves, and neck gators. 

  1. Helmetliner Knitting Instructions
  2. Helmetliner Pattern for Bulky Knitting Machine 
  3. Helmetliner Pattern for Standard Gauge Machine
  4. Scarves for Troops Knitting and Crocheting Instructions
  5. Knitted Neck Gaiters

 Happy knitting!

Screenshot of the front page of the Citizen S.A.M website. (Citizen Support for America's Military). From Helmetliner, a project of Citizen S.A.M., has sent more than 24,000 hand-knit helmet liners to troops overseas.


Enlisting All Knitters: Help keep a soldier warm in Afghanistan

July 27, 2010: Please note that Operation Helmetliner will be ending in November 2010. For details, read our post “Update: Farewell to Operation Helmetliner.”

Spring is just days from being sprung, but Patti Smith — a Marine mom from Peoria, Illinois — is already thinking about next winter, wool, and wicked wind chill in Afghanistan: She’s recruiting volunteer knitters to help Operation Helmetliner make handmade helmet liners for our troops.

The hand-knitted headgear is more than a welcome hello from home. It’s also useful. Patti, who has sent more than 24,000 helmet liners overseas, gets rave reviews from soldiers. “My fellow crew chiefs and I have been quite attached to our helmet liners,” writes one soldier, who says his job “often puts me underneath running helicopters when it is already cold enough outside.” Another writes, “Thank you for the warmth and compassion.”

Corrie Hanson, who did a tour in Afghanistan, wears a knitted black helmet liner at her home near Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Operation Helmetliner, which relies entirely on volunteers from across the country, plans to ship new helmet liners to Afghanistan in September and October 2010. To meet that goal, volunteers need to start knitting — and mailing items to Operation Helmetliner — this spring and summer.

Click to read more ...