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Soldiers will get a taste of Chicago
Elk Grove Village man sending pizzas to troops
By Ames Boykin | Daily Herald Staff

Mark Evans and his son, Kent, put their heads together to start a fundraising drive to send 300 Lou Malnati's pizzas to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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Published: 6/24/2008 12:05 AM

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When his 16-year-old son asked if U.S. soldiers serving in the Middle East had Lou Malnati's deep-dish pizza, Elk Grove Village resident Mark Evans knew what he had to do.

Their conversation, of course, was over some slices of the flaky, buttery-crusted Chicago pizza that the Evans family loves to indulge in.

Evans, a retired Air Force master sergeant, had sent 50 of his favorite Chicago-style pizzas to troops in Bosnia in the 1990s.

Evans' son Kent hoped to extend the same Chicago deep-dish hospitality to those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"You can't get Chicago food there," Mark Evans said.

Although retired from the military, Mark Evans' heart is still in the service. His 22-year-old daughter, Melissa, is attending the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.

He e-mailed Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, who replied eight hours later.

"Again, many thanks! Nothing's more important to our troopers, as you know, than the support of those at home," Petraeus wrote in a June 9 e-mail to Mark Evans.

As of Monday, Mark Evans already had lined up the money to send 300 pizzas for a Fourth of July re-enlistment ceremony. That was his original goal, but now he hopes to push that number up to 600 pizzas.

Transport was a major concern, but DHL Global volunteered to donate its services to ship the pizzas.

They will be frozen and packed in dry ice before heading to the Middle East.

Sally Glunz, director of mail order for Lou Malnati's, said the restaurant is pleased to have been able to offer the pizzas at a special rate for the troops.

"We're so honored that they'll be eating it on the Fourth of July," Glunz said.

Anyone interested in contributing to the "Pizzas 4 Patriots" project can write Mark Evans at sgtevans@sbcglobal.net.

With the time difference, Mark Evans over his breakfast plans to picture the soldiers enjoying their pizza.

"When you're drinking your coffee on the Fourth of July, those guys will be eating their Lou Malnati's pizza," Mark Evans said. "That'd be kind of a nice feeling, don't you think?"