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America Supports You: Groups Support Troops at Capitals Military Night

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2006 – Grassroots groups came out in force to show their support for America's servicemembers at the Washington Capitals-St. Louis Blues hockey game last night.

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Kathy Carroll (left) talks with Army Col. Kinard J. La Fate at the USO table during the Washington Capitals Salute the Military Night Jan. 19. Carroll is deputy director of development, marketing and events for the United Service Organizations of Metropolitan Washington. The USO and seven other troop-support organizations offered fans and servicemembers information about their efforts. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The Caps provided 7,000 game tickets for military personnel. Earlier in the day the Capitals announced in a news release that they are now members of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which showcases civilian support for servicemembers and communicates that support to the troops.

"This night and America Supports You is important to the ownership and organization entirely due to the deep respect that we hold for the men, women and families that serve our military," said Kevin Morgan, Capitals vice president for sales. "We want to help in any way we can to show gratitude and make these families understand that we do care and our country cares about the men and women that serve."

The America Supports You program's 188 grassroots and 23 corporate members show support through actions and services that make life easier for servicemembers and their families. The hockey team is the third professional Washington sports team to join the program. Baseball's Nationals and football's Redskins were already America Supports You members.

"Their dedication to bringing encouragement and support to the troops is heartening, and we are so happy to have them on board," said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.

While the Capitals skated to a 5-4 victory over the Blues, several grassroots groups displayed their support for America's servicemembers in the concourses of the MCI Center sports arena. Seven America Supports You member organizations were on hand to provide fans with information about their efforts.

One group, "Comfort for America's Uniformed Services Elite," a nonprofit, Virginia-based organization dedicated to providing recovering soldiers with personal and comfort items, had a collection site at the game.

Another, the United Service Organizations of Metropolitan Washington, often arranges for wounded veterans from Walter Reed Army Medical Center here and the National Naval Medical Center, at nearby Bethesda, Md., to get out to recreational events.

"That's really what military appreciation means," Kathy Carrol, deputy director of development, marketing and events for the USO of Metropolitan Washington, said. "(It means) that the people that I work with, the people that I serve, get out and have some fun."

Other ASY team members participating in the Caps military salute show their support in other ways. Some offer personal and financial assistance to servicemembers and their families; others send care packages or make sure disabled American veterans' voices are heard. Others work to ensure those fighting for America's freedoms know they're honored.

"We're here to sort of say thanks," said David Minyard, founder and chief executive officer of Eagle's Watch Foundation, another troop-support program.

Servicemembers attending the military salute night expressed appreciation for the thanks and support America Supports You organizations offer.

"Early in my career ... USO was the first stop I made, because it was a piece of home," Army Col. Kinard J. La Fate, a deputy director of the National Defense University's Capstone program, said. "USO provides a service not based on dollars (received), but rather on what the needs are. It's from the heart."

Fans and servicemembers alike expressed their appreciation for the Capitals' salute.

Army Sgt. Kevin Tierney said the game was a nice way to be honored. "We work hard, and it's nice that they show their appreciation," he said.

"It's fantastic," hockey fan Rose Wessel said. "(The servicemembers) absolutely deserve it for all of their sacrifice."

"I think this is a superb idea," John Wordock, another fan, said. "I think they should do it more often."

Other America Supports You organizations represented during the military appreciation night were: Our Military Kids, Disabled American Veterans, the Armed Forces Foundation, and Operation First Response.

Representatives from Operation Tribute to Freedom, the Army's program designed to honor soldiers and give them opportunities to thank the American people for their support, were also on hand.

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Related Sites:
America Supports You
Armed Forces Foundation
Comfort for America's Uniformed Services Elite
Disabled American Veterans
Eagle's Watch Foundation
Operation First Response
Our Military Kids:
United Service Organizations
Operation Tribute to Freedom

Click photo for screen-resolution imageGail Kruzel, an executive director of Our Military Kids, Inc., mans her group's table at the Washington Capitals Salute the Military Night, Jan. 19 at the MCI Center. With the help of the group's two other executive directors, Linda Davis and Michelle Nelson, Our Military Kids provides grants for children of National Guardsmen and Reservists to participate in extracurricular activities. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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