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America Supports You: Capitals Sponsor Military Appreciation Night

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2006 – The National Hockey League showed its support for America's servicemembers with a military appreciation night program at the Washington Capitals-St. Louis Blues hockey game here last night.

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace meets with a patient from Walter Reed Army Medical Center between periods at the Washington Capitals-St. Louis Blues hockey game in Washington Jan. 19. Pace attended the game as part of the Capitals "Salute to the Military Night." Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
  

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

About 7,000 servicemembers from around the Washington area attended the game. During the event, the Capitals signed up as a corporate sponsor to the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which is designed to highlight corporate and private support for U.S. troops.

This was the fifth military appreciation night the Capitals have held. Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England and Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace thanked Capitals owner Ted Leonsis for his efforts in support of American servicemembers.

"It's always terrific to watch games like this because it is a team -- as is the military," England said. "We fight the same way our athletic teams play; it's a joint operation."

England thanked the Capitals and the organizations that helped sponsor the military appreciation night for recognizing the sacrifices American servicemembers make for freedom every day.

"I would like to add my personal thanks ... on behalf of all the servicemembers who have the honor of wearing the uniform of the United States of America to the Washington Capitals organization and all the sponsors," Pace said.

"Not only are you doing something very special for 7,000 or 8,000 of us who work in Washington here, ... but tonight I guarantee you when they get done watching the Caps win this game, they are going to go out and e-mail their friends around the world," Pace said. "And by tomorrow morning most of the armed forces will know that the Washington Capitals opened up their hearts and this game to support your military."

Servicemembers from across the Washington area got a chance to see rising Cap rookie Alexander Ovechkin score a goal, have an assist and score again during the shootout after the game finished regulation in a tie. The Caps prevailed 5-4.

About 400 wounded servicemembers and their families also attended and got a visit with Pace and his wife, Lynne.

The troops enjoyed the night out on the Caps. "I've never been to a hockey game in my life," Marine Lance Cpl. Steve Boyd said. "But I have to admit this is pretty cool."

A friend of Boyd's from Michigan piped in that he had to force the Alabaman to come. "But you won't have to again," Boyd said.

Another group of troops cheered for anybody who scored. "Caps, Blues, we don't care, we're just having fun," one young man said.

"There's no way we could afford to do this without the free tickets," one of his compadres said.

The sponsors for the night enjoyed watching the servicemembers have a good time. "It's an honor to participate in this," said Curtis Gray, a senior president with BAE Systems, Inc. -- one of the event's sponsors. "We never forget who really does the heavy lifting."

Mitch Edbaum, a Vietnam veteran from Maryland, said he was pleased to see the outpouring of support. "They didn't have things like this when I came home," he said. "I am so pleased that Americans finally seem to be able to separate the policymakers from those who carry out the mission."

In addition to BAE, Versar, Northrop-Grumman, Citrix, AAI, Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, Morgan-Franklin, Taser, L3Com and Object Video sponsored the effort.

"We'll keep hosting these," Leonsis said. "It's the least we can do to thank our servicemembers."

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Related Sites:
America Supports You

Click photo for screen-resolution imageChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace (right) and Comcast sports broadcaster Al Koken talk before a live interview between periods at the Jan. 19 Washington Capitals-St. Louis Blues game in Washington. Pace attended the game as part of the Capitals "Salute to the Military Night." Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace meets with a group of patients from Walter Reed Army Medical Center between periods at the Washington Capitals- St. Louis Blues hockey game in Washington Jan. 19. Pace attended the game as part of the Capitals "Salute to the Military Night." Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF  
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