EXACTLY 6,852 miles from home, in a parched place like Iraq, a thick Whitey's chocolate malt would go down pretty good right about now.
That must be why Cpl. Joshua VandeWiele of Colona, Ill., nailed a sentimental sign about Whitey's and the Quad-Cities on a post at the Iraq Marine Air Wing base where he's stationed. It must make him feel good, easing any pangs of homesickness to see that sign.
"He loved Whitey's," says his mom, Jeannie VandeWiele of Colona. "When he is home on leave, one of the first stops has been Whitey's. His favorite was chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, and he can never get his fill of Whitey's malts and milk shakes."
Josh is on his third tour of duty "over there" with the Marines. When fellow Marines began hammering directions and details of their homes or favorite haunts to a post places like Tupelo, Miss., and a speedway Josh couldn't resist getting into the act. He did some research to get replicas of the logos, handpainted on the signboard, which says it is 6,852 miles to get a Whitey's.
He began the board with the words "Quad-Cities, Ill. and Ia. home of
This is followed by the John Deere logo, which is important because his dad, Jerry, is retired from Deere. Next is the logo of Whitey's, the red-on-white swirl with upswing name of the Quad-Cities' favorite ice cream. Alongside the Whitey's logo is a drawing of the Centennial Bridge.
"Boy, is it nice to be remembered," says Jon Tunberg of Whitey's. "We'd like to pack a bunch of Whitey's in dry ice and send it over to Josh, but food shipments like that are banned."
Whitey's has sent big batches of mini-malts to troops departing from Fort Campbell, Ky., and regularly ships dry ice-packed malts to service people who are stateside, but never overseas.
His mom laughs that before leaving on his last tour of duty, Josh told her that he'd like to take Whitey's along. The closest thing to the Quad-Cities that could go with him was a John Deere cap and T-shirt.
Josh's parents live near Billy Wolf Road in Colona which is not far from Geneseo to you city-fied folks who never heard of that landmark, Billy Wolf Road.
Josh enlisted in the Marines while a high school student in Geneseo, then reported for duty after graduation. After boot camp and training, he married his high school sweetheart, Elisabeth Ross, who now lives in Miramar, Calif., Josh's home base.
In his years as a Marine, Josh has seen a hunk of overseas duty. He was in Kuwait for six months in 2003, and seven months in Iraq in 2004. He left Jan. 19 of this year for another hitch in Iraq, where he is a computer network specialist.
Tunberg wishes that he could somehow get malts to Josh. After all, Whitey's malts have made it to England and Japan.
"Someone wanted to send our malts to Japan. We knew that would never work, but they said if we could get them to San Francisco, they'd get them the rest of the way to Japan. We got them to San Francisco, and we don't know what happened after that."
Whitey's once made up a special batch of peppermint ice cream for a White House reunion of Hillary Rodham Clinton's Wellesley College class. Peppermint ice cream was always the Sunday desert at Welleslley, and White House chefs couldn't find any in Washington. Whitey's made up many gallons and shipped it in dry ice. It arrived, without a drip.
"The White House order was great, but it's a great feeling, too, to know that when servicemen like Josh think of home and the Quad-Cities, they think of Whitey's," Tunberg says.
He tells how other servicemen have had the same feeling.
"We know. First, they can't wait to see their wives, and then they can't wait to get a Whitey's."
Bill Wundram can be contacted at (563) 383-2249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.