(ELK GROVE, Ill.) — Pizza and the Super Bowl go hand in hand. So Mark Evans, retired Air Force master sergeant, is trying to send more than 20,000 pizzas to troops in the Middle East.
If it sounds like a big goal, it is, but Evans already has experience with 11 “Pizza for Patriots” projects, having delivered over 120,000 pizzas to troops.
“We’re so blessed with this whole thing,” said Evans, 53, of Elk Grove, Ill.
It started five years ago, when Evans was watching television coverage of the war in Iraq and eating pizza with his son, Kent. A freshman in high school, Kent asked if troops abroad would be able to eat pizza.
Evans, a 26-year veteran, said troops in combat zones would probably be eating “out of a box.” His son then asked if the family could send pizzas to the troops.
Evans, who now works full-time for AT&T, had some experience with long-distance take-out. He had sent pizzas that were frozen in dry ice to troops in Bosnia ten years prior to that.
“I was a master sergeant,” Evans told ABC News. “You never say no. You do what you got to do. When they said, ‘Do something;’ You say, ‘Done.’ I never failed at my missions.”
Evans happened to have a friend with high security clearance who had Gen. David Petraeus’ email address. Evans emailed the top military official to ask if he could send some pizzas.
“General Petraeus answered me in 12 hours,” Evans said. “He said it was a great idea. I guess he was hungry. And he loves Chicago pizza. My wife couldn’t believe he answered me.”
The goal was to send 300 pizzas to the troops, but with help from shipping company DHL and after contacting local newspapers for media attention, Evans had raised enough money to send 3,000 pizzas.
Through the years, Pizza for Patriots, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, has worked with a number of pizza and food companies to feed almost a half a million troops, according to Evans, on holidays like Independence Day and Veterans Day.
The organization accepts donations online and via mail. For the last Super Bowl, Pizza for Patriots delivered 10,000 pizzas, so Evans wants to double that this year.
Evans said the military will be in charge of distributing the pizzas, mainly to combat areas in Afghanistan. But he believes they will be given to troops in almost all countries in the Middle East.
“Their intent is to get it to the guys who need it the most,” he said.
He hopes his 25-year-old daughter, an Air Force pilot in Afghanistan, will be able to enjoy a pizza.
Evans is also thinking about veterans in the U.S. To celebrate Veterans Day this year, Evans wants to raise enough money to send pizzas to more than 125 VA hospitals in the U.S.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Ray Sanchez, CNN Newswire
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire