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 News Article

Deputy Secretary Praises Pro Hockey Team at Pentagon

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 6, 2006 – Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England praised the Washington Capitals ice hockey team for its support of U.S. servicemembers during team and management members' Pentagon visit today.

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Washington Capitals' goaltender Olaf Kolzig shakes hands with Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England as Capitals team captain Jeff Halpern (center) looks on April 6. England presented the hockey team, which was touring the Pentagon, with a commemorative plaque for its help with the "America Supports You" program. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore

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

England greeted the National Hockey League icemen in his office and presented them with a commemorative plaque for the Capitals' work in support of the U.S. military as part of DoD's "America Supports You" program.

"This is presented to the Washington Capitals in appreciation for your partnership with America Supports You," England said as he presented the plaque to two Capitals veterans, goaltender Olaf Kolzig and forward Jeff Halpern.

"We sincerely thank you and appreciate your great support," England told the group, which included team owner and President Dick Patrick, Vice President and General Manager George McPhee, and Head Coach Glen Hanlon.

The America Supports You program highlights support to U.S. servicemembers and their families. About 190 grassroots citizens groups across the country now work with America Supports You. Groups conduct letter-writing campaigns, mail care packages, and provide other services for U.S. servicemembers and their families.

Kolzig and Halpern, the team captain, presented England with a dark blue Capitals jersey, which had the deputy secretary's name emblazoned on the back.

Other Capitals players at the ceremony included forwards Alexander Ovechkin, Ben Clymer and Chris Clark, as well as second goaltender Brent Johnson. Ovechkin is a rookie sensation. The 20-year-old Russian has scored nearly 50 goals in his first NHL season.

England also presented the Capitals with his deputy secretary of defense coin and introduced Army Staff Sgt. Joe Bowser, 46, who had his right leg amputated below the knee after being wounded in Iraq in 2004. Today, he walks and ice skates with a prosthetic device.

"Joe is one of our heroes, ... one of those guys who gave a lot," England said. "What's terrific (is) Joe can still go out there and skate."

The Capitals invited Bowser, who in his younger days played high school ice hockey in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, to participate in a practice skate with the team on April 16. Bowser also attended last night's Capitals home game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"It was awesome. To sit back and watch these guys play at the level that they're at in the NHL, ... that's where I'd loved to have been," Bowser said. "It was great to see them." The staff sergeant also was interviewed at the Pentagon by regional cable network Comcast SportsNet anchor and reporter Marius Payton.

Bowser is looking forward to his skate with the Capitals. "Just because I'm an amputee, I wasn't going to let anybody say that I couldn't play hockey," he said.

"I'm back on the ice and playing," Bowser, a 14-year Army veteran, said, and added that he plans "to see if I can score on Olie (Kolzig)" during his slated Capitals skate.

After eating lunch in the Navy dining room, the Capitals group attended a briefing on Afghanistan and Iraq in the Army Operations Center and afterward took a guided tour of the Pentagon.

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Gordon England

Related Sites:
America Supports You

Click photo for screen-resolution imageRegional cable network Comcast SportsNet anchor and reporter Marius Payton interviews Army Staff Sgt. Joe Bowser in the Pentagon April 6. Bowser, a life-long ice hockey player, lost much of his right leg due to injuries he received in Balad, Iraq, in April 2004. With the aid of a prosthetic device, he still ice skates. The Washington Capitals ice hockey team invited Bowser to skate during a team practice on April 16. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDeputy Defense Secretary Gordon England thanks the Washington Capitals ice hockey team for its partnership with DoD's "America Supports You" program in his Pentagon office April 6. At England's right are Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig (far left) and forward Jeff Halpern. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore  
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