NORMAL - U.S. soldiers in Iraq will get a sweet Fourth-of-July treat from Boylan's Candy and an Illinois State University fraternity.
"It's a luxury," for members of the Armed Services to get candy while overseas, said Ben Arnold, a member of ISU's Chi Gamma Iota fraternity and the organizer of Tuesday's shipment.
The social organization, and its sister sorority, Xi Gamma Iota, offers camaraderie for ISU students and other college students in the Twin Cities who are U.S. veterans, reservists, and members of the National Guard.
The groups also help students returning make a transition from military to campus life, said Arnold.
Boylan's Candy co-owner Dan Flynn donates some of his surplus candy each year to charity. Past recipients have included the Clare House food pantry and Jesus House, which offers services for homeless and neighborhood young people.
This year, Flynn heard some public service announcements on the radio about the need for donations for troops serving overseas.
It seemed like a good idea to him.
A friend of Ben Arnold's father, Flynn called to see if the ISU fraternity might be interested in handling the donation this year.
In all, Boylan's is sending 120 pounds of assorted creams.
A Valentine's Day snowstorm that practically shut down the city was the largest factor in Boylan's excess inventory, said Flynn. It wasn't great news for the business, but he's happy to think soldiers will benefit.
Each of the boxes get a Boylan's Candy label saying the candy was made in Bloomington.
"Some will know where that is, and some won't. Either way, I figured it would bring a little spirit to them," said Flynn.
"And these are pretty fancy," said Arnold, looking over the candy.
Chi Gamma Iota had a fund-raiser this spring, and some money from that will go cover costs of dry ice and shipping fees to send the chocolates.
Arnold knows the candies will be appreciated.
The candy is going to two Marine units: 1st Radio Battalion, a Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based unit now in Iraq; and 3rd Radio Battalion, a Kaneohe, Hawaii-based unit now at sea, Arnold said.
"When you're stuck somewhere eating those meals ready to eat out of a plastic bag, or chow from a mess hall set up in a tent. That's OK," said Arnold.
"But when the mail comes, that's something else," he said.
He speaks from experience.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the 1999 Bloomington High School graduate joined the U.S. Marines. Often stationed with an amphibious unit, he spent plenty of days at sea, isolated and far from a candy store.
Now 26, Arnold is studying philosophy at ISU. He is a corporal in the U.S. Marines Reserve.
To learn more about the ISU veterans' fraternity visit the group's Web site at www.chigammaiota.com.