By Alex McVeigh, Pentagram Staff WriterJune 23, 2009
Hungry Soldiers started lining up on the sidewalks between Fort Myer's Dining Facility and the Community Center at 11 a.m. Wednesday, half an hour before the dining facility opens. They weren't waiting for the dining facility though, they were lined up next to the mobile USO vehicle for some free pizza to celebrate the Army's 234th birthday. Members of USO- Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Freedom Team Salute and the Fort Myer Military Community came out to thank members from all branches of the military for their service, and also to take part in a very special presentation. Fifty-one Papa John's pizzerias in the Washington, D.C. area, franchised by retired Army Col. William Freitas, held a "Papa's Pledge" deal, where proceeds went to the USO. They presented USO-Metro President Elaine Rogers with a check for $75,000 just before lunch began. "Today was a culmination of a marketing and PR campaign for the USO," said Rogers. "We're here to support and thank our Soldiers, and we figured, what better way to thank the troops for their service'" Soldiers didn't actually say the words, "you're welcome," but the line that stretched from behind the community center all the way to McNair Road showed that they were indeed appreciative. By the time a fleet of delivery men came with more pizzas than could be counted, the line was doubling back on itself. Before the pizza could be attacked, Maj. Mike Conley from Freedom Team Salute made a special presentation. FTS is a Department of the Army program that recognizes the bond between Soldiers, Families, the community and Army veterans. Since their inception in 2005, they have recognized more than two million people for their contributions to the Army. Conley presented an award to Freitas as a supporter of the Army through his efforts, his restaurants, and one as a veteran. "His actions helping the USO directly benefit Soldiers," Conley said. "We wanted to say thank you to both of them for their help." The pizzas went quickly, and more drivers began bringing pizzas as it became clear there were going to be plenty of people braving the rain to have some pizza. There were games and prizes. First Sgt. Steven Colbert of Headquarters and Headquarters Command Regiment came away with the big prize, a PlayStation 3. "I just came to hang out with some of my fellow Soldiers, but they were handing out tickets, and I grabbed one," he said. "I'll probably give it to my son, he's been asking me for one." As the rain came down even harder, it didn't deter almost 30 people from waiting for the pizza to get refilled. A big crowd came out, which Rogers credited to the great relationship between the USO and the FMMC. "Colonel Richardson was so gracious in allowing us to hold our event here, which is a credit to the great relationship we have with Fort Myer," Rogers said. "You can't lose when you have Soldiers getting free pizza, and the turnout was amazing."