By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service
Oct. 10, 2008 - Microwavable popcorn, theater-style candy, sweetened powdered drink mix, a letter of support and a DVD are what deployed troops find when they open a "movie box" from Operation: Take a Soldier to the Movies. Bernie and Kathy Hintzke of Milwaukee started the project when their son, Adam, was deployed to Iraq in 2004, to bring a piece of "back home" to troops who are deployed to war zones.
Originally, they were hoping to collect enough movie boxes for their son's battalion. In the process, they received requests from other family members to send movie boxes to their military relatives as well. Today, the group sends boxes to troops in all service branches.
"Since then, due to the continued generosity of people from all across the U.S., we have sent out over 45,000 movie packages to troops serving in the Middle East, from all branches of service," Kathy Hintzke said.
Operation: Take a Soldier to the Movies provides a way for troops to deal with anxieties and loneliness through watching movies, she added.
"Our desire is to be able to provide a 'Saturday Night at the Movies' experience to as many troops as possible," she said. "They're working between 12- and 18-hour days, with sometimes only a few hours to kick back and relax. A movie fits this time frame perfectly and allows their minds to travel to another place and time."
To receive movie boxes, troops or family members go to the Operation: Take a Soldier to the Movies Web site to make a request. Based upon availability of supplies, the home-front group schedules production and shipment. To date, the group has sent movie boxes to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, South Korea and north of the Arctic Circle.
Troops accustomed to receiving everything from foot powder to mosquito repellant are excited about their movie boxes.
"We are going to love this," Army Pfc. Michael Hilty wrote to the group after receiving a movie box in Iraq. "We get to enjoy the whole experience with the popcorn and the candy! I appreciate you so much! Thank you so much for the service you provide! I am going to order some movie decorations from Party Pro and set the whole scene up!"
Operation: Take a Soldier to the Movies is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.