A slice of pizza profits destined for returning Iraq war veterans

Danielle Ameden

More than four years after the start of the Iraq war, a local pizza shop is still waiting for the "boys to get back" before slicing up a former promotion's profits saved for local soldiers.

In April 2003, Napoleon Pizza of Hopedale started a promotion to donate 10 percent of sales from a $14.99 three-pie special to area soldiers who shipped out overseas and whose names were added to a list.

Since that spring, the pizza shop has moved to Milford and its campaign has raised $892. The promotion lasted about a year.

Organizers behind the pizza shop's promotion are still waiting for the return from battle of all 13 soldiers who are set to receive their share from the fund. Per the promotion's original rules, the money will be distributed once every soldier on the list comes home.

"We're just waiting for all the local boys to get back," Bob Watkins said at a table inside the Beach Street eatery yesterday.

Bob's ex-wife Diane, who works at Napoleon, read the names scrawled on a green guest check that's kept in the restaurant's kitchen, including that of their son, Jason, who served in Iraq.

"Jason, Ryan, Joe, Ross, Kenny, (Halpin) brothers, Donaher, Trongone, Russo brothers, Trites, Mazzuchelli ..." she said. "It would be nice if the war was over."

While most on the list have returned stateside, there may still be one or two still serving, Bob said. "When they all come down, the money gets split between them all."

Watkins is asking for people who have been signed up on Napoleon's list to contact him at 508-868-8396.

Milford native Steve Mazzuchelli, 28, didn't even realize he was on Napoleon list until recently, having been signed up without his knowledge by a loved one.

When Mazzuchelli learned of the promotion and fund, he said he was honored by Napoleon's patriotic gesture.

"They didn't have to do that," said Mazzuchelli, who served as a Marine corporal in the 3rd Light Armor Reconnaissance Battalion during the invasion of Iraq. "Nobody asks for that and when it's done, it's special."

Mazzuchelli recalls receiving "tons of support" from his community while serving his country. He was mailed "tons of letters" and greeted with hugs and handshakes at his 2003 coming-home party.

"Even people I had never met before were coming out to thank me," he said. "It felt good."

Mazzuchelli graduated from UMass Boston on the GI Bill and now lives in Boston, working as a mutual fund representative at Eaton Vance Management.

Hopedale's Ross Spear experienced the same kind of community support through care packages and supportive letters from members of his community while in Iraq.

"It was so great to be coming from the Milford-Hopedale area," said Spear, a Marine in Task Force Tarawa who was promoted to corporal while overseas. "I loved it, being able to almost brag about the patriotism in the community."

Nowadays, Spear is staff sergeant with the Marines, supervising recruiters in Hartford, Conn.

Another local soldier on the list is Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Russo of Hopedale. Owner of Hopedale's Veteran Floor Covering, Russo is studying at Framingham State College in the hopes of becoming a high school history teacher.

The 26-year-old is an active reservist who served during Operation Enduring Freedom immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks. His brother, Air Force Staff Sgt. David Russo, served in Iraq. Michael will appreciate his portion of Napoleon's fund but said getting all soldiers back home safely is of paramount importance.

"I served my country for my country," he said. "I didn't really expect anything to come of it."

Soldiers on the list to split up the fundraiser proceeds include Mazzuchelli, Spear, the Russos, Jason Watkins, Ryan Yung, Joseph Loewy, Ken Belben, Kevin Halpin, Donald Halpin, Joseph Donaher III, R.J. Trongone, Chris Trites.

Anyone with questions about the promotion and soldier list can contact Bob Watkins at 508-868-8396.

Danielle Ameden can be reached at 508-634-7521 or