Tony Carro’s home is covered in barbecue sauce.
Well, at least his thoughts of home, anyway, and his parents are doing everything they can to send him more of those memories.
A few weeks ago, Carro, an Army specialist is serving as a Blackhawk helicopter crew chief in Iraq, and a few other soldiers got a small grill and began cooking out each night instead of eating military food on their base in Tikrit.
Each night, more and more soldiers would come over for smoked chicken, ribs, pork, whatever they could get their hands on, thinking of their lives back in the United States.
“It was happy and sad,” said Carro’s mother Michele Hedrick, who lives in Lake Ridge with her husband Mike. “They would eat the food and it would cheer them up, but it would make them homesick at the same time.”
But at least it was something different to think about. And now the Hedricks are working to bring more of those happy barbeque-drenched thoughts to their son in the form of an industrial meat smoker for all the soldiers to enjoy.
“They are able to get meat from Germany, but they are likely not the best cuts,” said Mike Hedrick, who is a competitive barbeque chef. “Instead of just grilling, we thought they could smoke their food and it would taste a lot better. They could also cook a lot more of it.”
The idea came from Tim Bauckman, the owner of Tim’s Rivershore Restaurant in Dumfries, who is also sending over hats and shirts for the soldiers, along with well-wishes from customers.
“We got some pictures of pretty girls putting the stuff in the boxes for the soldiers,” Michele Hedrick said. “Some of them even pretended to jump into the box to be sent over after seeing all the cute soldiers that are with Tony.”
The Hedricks arranged for a small meat smoker to be sent to Carro’s base, but through their competitive barbeque connections, have three larger smokers ready to be sent over, if they can get the military to help them out.
Hedrick asked for help on a barbeque message board and received messages from Texas to North Carolina with people wanting to help.
Dave Klose, the Emeril of barbeque, is sending three industrial smokers and Rocky Richmond, a chef from North Carolina, is paying the more than $200 in shipping to send them to the Hedricks in Lake Ridge to be sent to Iraq.
“It’s something that started off as a simple idea to help our son and just grew,” Mike Hedrick said.
The Hedricks are mailing the first smoker today and then hope to send the three larger ones sometime in the coming week with the hopes they reach the soldiers by the end of July.
“It was one of those things that make you wonder why no one thought of before,” said Occoquan District Supervisor Corey Stewart, who the Hedricks asked for help. “We’ll all be home enjoying barbeques this summer and the soldiers should have the same privilege. What a great way to bring a piece of home to them.”
Stewart is calling contacts in the military to help get the smokers, which are about the size of a 55-gallon drum, overseas.
Hedrick, a former Marine, said he wants one to reach his son, but the others can be sent to any military base in the world.