COPPERAS COVE— It’s not every day soldiers get to make pizza.
Yet, every April for the last 15 years, Domino’s Pizza in Copperas Cove has provided soldiers and their families the opportunity to do just that as a way to say thank you for their sacrifices.
“Families serve, too,” said Ingrid Kiefer, a former manager of Domino’s Pizza at 2127 E. Business U.S. Highway 190, Suite C, in Copperas Cove. She is now the public relations representative and liaison to Fort Hood
The idea of allowing those who serve in the armed forces, as well as their families, the chance to get behind the counter and make a pizza together came to Kiefer when she wanted to go above and beyond to show her appreciation.
“We could give them a slice,” she said. “But I wanted to do something extra, something above and beyond.”
Since 2004, the annual event ran from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with those in line by the cut-off time able to make their pizzas.
“The city of Copperas Cove provides us with tables and tents; USO helps with canopies,” said Chris Herd, regional director of Domino’s Pizza.
Bits and Bites provided 500 cupcakes. Tony’s Karaoke provided the music.
Coca-Cola has been a sponsor from the beginning and provided a trailer and free drinks throughout the day.
Domino’s Pizza in Copperas Cove had volunteers from stores in Temple and from as far away as Beaumont to help run the event, as the franchise was still open for regular operation and had deliveries to get out.
Preparation for the event started a week ago with the Cove location having to order extra dough and topping options to last for more than 800 free pizzas, and regular orders as well.
“My husband is currently deployed to Poland and I have three children,” said Trisha Stutz, who has attended Soldier Appreciation Day events at Domino’s Pizza for the last four years. “And we have a duplex, so I’m here with my neighbor whose husband just got back but had an overnight shift so he’s not here with them today.
“So we kind of just come to everything together and share everything, so my oldest and her oldest made a pizza together and then we just split it up so it all works out.”
Kiefer plans to retire soon and the idea of Soldier Appreciation Day may retire with her, but Domino’s Pizza in Copperas Cove plans to continue to give back.
The establishment serves free slices of pizza every Wednesday at the USO office at Fort Hood for soldiers to enjoy lunch.
Over the years, Kiefer has seen how much a simple slice of pie can go a long way for those who serve in the military, both at home and overseas.
While she has heard many thanks for soldiers over the years, certain stories stick out above the rest.
Although Kiefer can’t recall the names of the soldiers, one memory from over the years reminds her of why she has continued to serve those who serve the country.
Domino’s Pizza in Copperas Cove serves pizza to soldiers before they deploy and when they return home from their tour — no matter what time they get into Fort Hood.
“One year, a lieutenant was returning from deployment,” Kiefer recalled. “And he said, ‘I’m so glad to see you guys, you’ll see why in a minute.’”
That soldier pulled out a crumpled, dirty and marked-up Domino’s Pizza box from his bag.
Three weeks before that day, the soldier’s buddy had returned home from his deployment and mailed his friend that pizza box to tell him that Domino’s Pizza would be waiting for him when he got home.
“He slept with that box and marked off each day left in his deployment until he would get home,” Herd said.
“There was sand in the box and everything,” Kiefer added.
That was the same year that Kiefer and Domino’s almost didn’t make it to the homecoming, but she felt she had to be there to serve some pizza.
“It solidified to me why we need to be there before they leave and when they return,” she said.
And while the simple pleasures of pizza can make all the difference for a soldier returning from deployment, it can also make make all the difference for the families serving at home.
For 3-year-old Copperas Cove resident Aniyah Barnes, Sunday was all about the chance to make her own pizza — with some assistance from her dad, Mark.
“Watching some guy that will put on this uniform, get a gun on his shoulder and sleep in some sand — watching someone like that make their first pizza and watch it come out of the oven,” said Herd, “it’s like a 2-year-old on Christmas morning.
“It’s amazing, the feeling I get inside from being able to see that. I can’t say I’ve ever served my country, but I can say I served many slices to those who do.”