Great State: Army Pizza

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MOORE, OKLAHOMA -- It's way before lunch time at the new Marco's Pizza in Moore but the orders are already coming in. Owner Kevin Wilkerson is helping out wherever he can.

His wife Laurel, who Kevin calls the real boss, is helping out too. "She's still in charge," says Kevin, "which is the secret to a good marriage, by the way."

They're a busy couple. The Wilkersons own five of these restaurants with a sixth set to open soon. But take a slice of their personal histories and they would both contain a whole different set of toppings. Kevin explains it this way. "Most people don't equate running a pizza place with a career in the military."

Up until 2005 Kevin Wilkerson was Colonel Wilkerson in the U.S. Army, an infantry officer, a veteran of tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan, in charge of thousands of soldiers. Along the way, says Wilkerson, "we met in Hawaii. We served in Boston, Europe, Asia."

Laurel, herself, had a 20 year career as an Army lawyer. Of her varied service in the JAG Corps she said, "It might be environmental law. It might be criminal law or labor law."

They could have stayed in but they were both tired of being apart. Most of their fellow officers went to work for the defense industry. The Wilkersons wanted something different.

They just didn't know it would involve pizza. "It's been fascinating for me," says Kevin. "Because this has come as close as anything we've done to replicating military service, and I looked a lot for different concepts."

The difference between being officers and business owners isn't so great, they say. Supply and logistics can be a challenge in both areas. Kevin and Laurel still lead a small army of workers who have a specific mission to accomplish.

They even have uniforms. Both Wilkersons smile. "My employees would say I definitely have a uniform," says Kevin, wearing a black, button-up with a Marco's logo on the front.

They're less likely to get a 'thank you for your service' comment these days. But Kevin and Laurel both insist they take as much pride in being part of their community.

Their fellow veterans stand with them in all kinds of different jobs across Oklahoma, happy to be home, and proud to serve in all kinds of different ways.

The Wilkersons' newest Marco's location is at S. 19th and Eastern in Moore. That location set new sales records for the franchise since August.