Bob Krumm reports:
BAGHDAD â€“ How are you spending your 4th of July holiday? While most Americans probably slept, 1,215 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines raised their right hands and committed to a combined 5,500 years of additional service during the largest reenlistment ceremony in the history of the American military. Beneath a large American flag which dwarfed even the enormous chandelier that Saddam Hussein had built for the Al Faw Palace, members of all services, representing all 50 states took the oath administered by Gen. David Petraeus, Commander of Multi-National Forces Iraq.
Make sure to read the full story, and watch video of the ceremony below:
Via Jeff Emanuel, here’s video of some of our troops from the 82nd Airborne in Samarra, Iraq celebrating Independence Day last year:
Freakin’ awesome. Thanks, guys.
The 3,000 pizzas — each with a pound of cheese and packed with other toppings — were cooked by Lou Malnati’s Restaurant staffers last week, then shipped though New York, Belgium and Bahrain on their way to U.S. troops around Baghdad.
The logistical nightmare of frozen freight and military regulations cost nearly $100,000 to pull off, most of that coming from donations from the restaurant chain and DHL Express.
But the idea came from retired Master Sgt. Mark Evans and his 16-year-old son Kent, Illinois residents who have sent much smaller care packages to overseas troops in the past
“My son and I were having a man’s night — eating some of Lou’s pizza while the women were out — and they were talking about the war on TV,” he said. “He asked me about the food over there, and I told him, â€˜They do their best, but it’s not like home cooking. They don’t have pizza like this there.’
“Then he asked if we could get some over there.”
Over the next month Evans contacted local eateries, shipping companies and military officials in Iraq, coordinating all the details needed to get Chicago’s signature dish delivered on the other side of the world.
Originally, Evans said, he hoped for about 300 pizzas to be sent overseas, but as donations poured in to his Pizzas 4 Patriots charity the plans quickly expanded.
Evans said Malnati’s immediately volunteered to help, donating most of their stock for the popular “Taste of Chicago” event this weekend for the effort. DHL global service manager Ethan Mattern called the delivery a tremendous challenge “but a fantastic idea” that the company was happy to participate in.
The pizzas arrived in country Thursday night, and were transported to dining facility cooks with instructions on how to prepare them. Evans said CENTCOM officials promised him the thick delicacies would be part of July Fourth celebrations for several thousands of troops.
Evans said he hopes to turn this effort’s success into a recurring charity. He’s disappointed that despite everyone’s work pizzas won’t make it to Afghanistan, and already has plans to fix that for future holidays. But he’s also thrilled that he could bring a small slice of home to troops on July Fourth.
For more information on the charity, visit www.pizzas4patriots.com.