Press Release

Courtesy Story Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs
By Sharon Foster  American Forces Press Service 

WASHINGTON - 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 service members and their families serving at home and abroad. 


This was the official website for OPERATION: TAKE A SOLDIER TO THE MOVIES. The content below is from the site's archived pagess. This resurrected site was created as an homage and a thank you to Bernie and Kathy Hintzke of Milwaukee who started this project.

OPERATION: TAKE A SOLDIER TO THE MOVIES was started to improve the morale among the troops stationed in war zones around the world. Soldiers in war zones literally had “nothing to do” when not working. This is a way of providing them with a “Saturday Night at the Movie” experience. Each movie package to the troops contains:


Popcorn Box Contents·Letter of support from the donor with their mailing address 
· New or used DVD
· Artificially sweetened powdered drink mix packets i.e. Crystal Light or Kool Aide (no tubs)
· Movie theatre style candy (no chocolate)
· Microwavable Popcorn


“On behalf of the 7/158th AVN REGT, I would like to thank you very much for the movies. They are very well appreciated. The soldiers could not believe that the folks back home would send movies and candy, they are used to getting foot powder etc. We are forming a movie library now thanks to you, the soldiers here are combining the movies in the morale tent and you can come in and check one out anytime, they are also putting in some of their own. We will pass this on to the unit that replaces us in 2006. The candy and the popcorn was really a big hit. You actually feel like you are at a movie. I can’t say thank you enough. Thanks to your organization, for a brief time (during movie) we are not here. Enclosed are some pictures of the soldiers.” SSG George Bowyer 

We have reached the point where we need more Help !. We have a number of new units in Iraq, etc. that have heard of our project and sent us e-mails asking to be included in our program and we can’t get them the movie packages because we are short of the items that go into the package. When school was in session we had many schools take on our project for one of their service projects. Now that school is out for the summer, we don’t have the supply to meet the requests. At present we have about 500 soldiers, marines, etc. that we can’t send movie packages because we don’t have all the items needed for a complete package.
We need the following: 

DVD’s (new or used)
Artificially sweetened powdered drink mix packets
Movie theatre style candy

Letters from back home. 

We have an adequate supply of popcorn, but it’s the other items that are in short supply.

Please spread the word to all you know, and ask them if they can help us out so that we can fill these orders. You’ll help bring a smile to another 500 of our military sons and daughters.

Play Radio Broadcast Interview
Thank you again for all that you do.

Bernie & Kathy Hintzke



Thank you ever so much for including our unit in your wonderful program.  We recieved one of your packages last week and it was a huge hit for the soldiers.  We created a grab box for soldiers coming off shift, so the movies and snacks are being shared with all.  I know in your email you stated you sent four packages, so I will be sure to let you know when we receive the other ones.  I will also be responding to the letters that were included in the packages.  I had attached a few pictures at your request, the file size was too big to send.  Thanks again for providing us with a taste of home...it means a great deal to us.

Regards, SGT Jason B. Schultz Kuwait


Los Angeles Times

By Faye Fiore

There's a diner called Peggy Sue's about eight miles outside of Barstow, Calif., and as hard as Lt. Col. Kenneth Parks tries, he never can seem to pay his bill.

He orders a burger and a chocolate shake. Before he's finished, though, the waitress informs him that the tab has been taken care of by yet another stranger who prefers to remain anonymous, but who wants to do something for a soldier in uniform.

Many Americans have conflicted feelings about the Iraq war, but not about the warriors. The gestures of gratitude and generosity that occur with regularity at Peggy Sue's -- across Interstate 15 from Fort Irwin, a military desert-training site -- have become commonplace across the United States.

A spontaneous standing ovation for a group of soldiers at Los Angeles International Airport. Three $20 bills passed to a serviceman and his family in a grocery store in Georgia. A first-class seat given up to a service woman on a plane out of Chicago.

These bursts of goodwill have little to do with the holiday season or with political sentiments about the war. In contrast to hostile stares that greeted many Vietnam veterans 40 years ago, today's troops are being treated as heroes throughout the year, in red states and blue, by peace activists and gung-ho supporters of the Iraq mission. The gestures often are spontaneous, affiliated with no association or cause, and credit seldom is claimed.

"It makes you feel great. It may just be a burger and a shake, but it's the thought behind it," said Parks, who has served two tours in Iraq. Stationed at Fort Jackson, S.C., he goes to Barstow regularly for training.

"My father went over to Vietnam three times, and he felt like he was not respected," Parks said. "Sometimes he felt like he was not even an American. But I see a big difference. I feel we're appreciated. An airport is about the best place for a soldier to be."

That was Sgt. Baldwin Yen's experience when he landed at LAX on Thanksgiving Day 2004. The pilot asked if other passengers would mind letting the service members on board exit first so they could get home to their families all the sooner. Not a passenger complained. Still in their combat fatigues, the soldiers were assembled in a corner of the airport when a bystander began to applaud. Soon, people were standing up and clapping in spontaneous tribute as far as Yen could see.

"I was kind of embarrassed," said Yen, 27, of West Hollywood, Calif. As an Army reservist who wore his uniform infrequently until he was called to Iraq, he was unaccustomed to such attention. "I'm a slight, Asian man -- 5-feet-9 and 140 pounds. People usually didn't think I looked like the military type. But then all these people were standing up. I was touched and surprised."

This is not a nation at war so much as it is an army at war. Service members and their families mostly bear the weight of the Iraq and Afghanistan missions alone -- family separations, career dislocation and danger. Many soldiers are serving third tours, and there is no clear end in sight.

For civilians, the chance to touch a military member or family can be irresistible, so much so that people break the comfortable anonymity of public places -- airports, hotels, stores -- to walk up and pat a soldier on the back.

"For probably the first time in American history, civilians are asked to make no sacrifices in a time of war. We don't have a draft. There is no gas rationing the way there was in World War II. There is no increase in taxes; we get tax cuts instead," said Charles Moskos, a leading military sociologist at Northwestern University. "These acts are small ways of showing some recognition, because we're not doing it any other way."

Army Capt. Alina Martinez was in a grocery outside Fort Benning, Ga., with her soldier husband and their 3-year-old daughter last spring. Noticing the haircut, the couple in line ahead asked if Martinez's husband was in the military. He answered that they both were. The couple thanked them repeatedly for their service and left the store.

The cashier soon handed Martinez $60 that the strangers had left for them.

"It wasn't the money; it was the fact that this couple only spoke to us for a couple of minutes, and they were so generous and sincere," she said. "It brought tears to my eyes right in the store."

National sentiment has come a long way since the days when Randall Rigby came home from Vietnam and was instructed by commanding officers to change out of his uniform before going out in public to avoid ridicule. Now a retired Army lieutenant general, Rigby recalled the memory recently when he watched a large man give up several inches of legroom in first class to a small female soldier seated in coach.

Charitable and nonprofit organizations, in the tradition of the long-serving United Service Organizations, have burgeoned since the beginning of the war. There are Web sites for collecting books to send to deployed troops (www.booksforsoldiers.com), and sites that offer "Take a Soldier to the Movies" packages that include popcorn, candy, a drink and a DVD (www.soldiertomovies.org). One site explains how to donate air miles to the loved ones of injured troops (www.fisherhouse.org).

Donations have grown steadily. Founded nearly two years ago, the Hero Miles program has delivered nearly 175 million air miles, saving military families an estimated $6 million in travel costs, said Jim Weiskopf, spokesman for the Fisher House Foundation, a Maryland-based charity that supports service members and their families.

Similarly, more than 7,000 DVD packages have been distributed to troops abroad through "Take a Soldier to the Movies." The site was created by Bernie and Kathy Hintzke of West Allis, Wis., a year ago to help support their son and his unit in Iraq.

But the American people have taken charity a step further, bypassing formal groups to help or comfort a soldier or a military family directly.

Celeste Zappala's son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, 30, was killed in an explosion in Baghdad on April 26, 2004. She still receives packages from strangers: quilts, religious cards, American flag pins in the shape of teardrops.

"People who just see my name on the Internet somewhere will pick up the phone to call and tell me they are sorry for my loss," said Zappala, 58, who lives in Philadelphia and is an active peace advocate. "It's really very dear."