NEWARK, N.J. – Brothers Marc and Michael Brummer figure the best way they can help support U.S. troops stationed in Iraq (search) is to try to feed them — thousands of them.
The co-owners of Hobby's Deli (search) hope to send salami to the entire 42nd Infantry Division, currently in Tikrit.
It'll take an estimated 23,000 salamis to reach that goal. But the first 2,000 or so of the dried meat — about 2 tons in all — was boxed and loaded onto a U.S. Postal Service (search) truck Tuesday in the first phase of what the brothers dubbed "Operation Salami Drop."
"We know there are a bunch of homesick men and women over there, and to be able to do something. ... How do you put words to it? You have to do something. I can do salamis," Marc Brummer said.
There are 2,500 more salamis in the store ready to go and 5,000 more on order, Marc Brummer said. All have been purchased with donations of $10 per salami, including a 13-year-old girl who donated $1,000 from her bat mitzvah money.
The inspiration for the project was twofold. The Brummers' 82-year-old father, Sam — who owned the 95-year-old deli before his sons took over its operation — fought in World War II in France and described receiving a salami in the mail about every month and carrying it around in his backpack for weeks.
"My whole platoon would line up and I would slice pieces for them," Sam Brummer recalled. "It was very important to us."
The other source was Michael Rothman of Melville, N.Y., a college friend of Michael Brummer who is a captain in the 42nd Infantry Division. When Rothman noticed fellow soldiers taking a keen interest in the salamis he received in the mail from Brummer, the two decided to expand the operation.
"There's nothing like the scene of soldiers getting a package and turning to share it with their friends and fellow soldiers," Rothman wrote in an e-mail from Iraq on Tuesday. "When it's something homemade, something unique that reminds you of home and of your civilian life, it can really make your day."
Salamis might be a perfect food for wartime since once they are dried — about a month after they're made — they can last almost indefinitely.
"They're already salted and smoked. Drying is another form of preserving," Michael Brummer said. "Once they dry, they'll be digging them up like they dig up dinosaur bones. That's what makes them so great."
The boxes of meat were handed from the deli across the sidewalk to the waiting truck in a human chain, aided by members of the 42nd Infantry Division Support Command from the Teaneck, Somerset and West Orange armories, as well as from Fort Drum, N.Y., where the 42nd is based.
From there, the salamis were to be taken to the Newark post office and the Bulk Mail Center in Jersey City to be put on pallets, then shrink-wrapped and sent overseas. The first batch could get to soldiers as early as this weekend, according to Carmen Fede, manager for customer service operations for the U.S. Postal Service.