A deep dish pizza with everything on it is the kind of pizza Mark Evans likes.
So in sending a "slice of home" to servicemen and women in Afghanistan, the retired Air Force master sergeant and founder of Pizzas 4 Patriots wanted to make sure they got the "best pizza on earth."
Evans was on hand to help do that Thursday morning in Franklin Park as thousands of deep dish pizzas were loaded onto a semitrailer truck to be sent to bases in Afghanistan.
Just in time for America's birthday next week, the pizzas should feed 90,000 troops serving in Afghanistan.
Through Pizzas 4 Patriots, a nonprofit organization that Evans formed, 30,000 pizzas in all are heading overseas in what he sees as offering the troops a small comfort of home.
"There's a lot of pressure out there and that is the hardest thing," Evans said. "They need some kind of comfort."
The ceremony in Franklin Park included patriotic music from Pipes & Drums of the Chicago Police Department, a Skype session with Lt Col. Steve Wilberding in Afghanistan and a flag ceremony by members of Boy Scout Troop 158 of Franklin Park.
Many thank-yous were said to DHL for providing transportation at no cost, to Evans for coming up with the idea and continuing it, and, of course, to the service members. Ethan Mattern, a senior manager for DHL's government and defense channel who handled transportation logistics, said the effort is a way to recognize those who have sacrificed.
In 2008, Evans' son, Kent, asked him if service members could have pizza in the Middle East. Knowing that they didn't, the senior Evans, who served 26 years in the Air Force and now works for AT&T, began trying to figure out a way to send pizzas overseas for the troops.
With his dinner table serving as his headquarters, he founded Pizzas 4 Patriots has since sent more 100,000 pizzas to mark the Fourth of July, Veterans Day and the Super Bowl.
This year, to mark the fifth year Pizzas 4 Patriots has sent pizzas to troops, Evans will be traveling to Afghanistan to help make deliveries.