WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 29, 2009) -- Soldiers from the Military District of Washington were treated to an early Christmas present Dec. 23.

The Washington Capitals and other National Hockey League teams occasionally give free tickets to servicemembers as part of their Military Appreciation Nights. The Dec. 23 game against the Buffalo Sabres, which the Capitals won 5-2, was recognized as Army Appreciation Night and free tickets were distributed to local Soldiers.

"It's great to have organizations such as the Capitals honor Soldiers by giving us free tickets to events," said Pvt. Jake Higgins, a 3rd Infantry Soldier who attended the game. "It really makes me proud to serve this country."

In addition to recognizing the Soldiers throughout the game by displaying supportive messages on the jumbotron screen, the Capitals recognized Sgt. Matthew Morlock from 911th Engineer Company as their 'Servicemember of the Game.' Morlock is the 2009 Military District of Washington Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and competed in the U.S. Army Best Warrior Competition.

Morlock was given a Capitals t-shirt and shown on the jumbotron as a short announcement honoring him for his service was made to the crowd.

Morlock's recognition comes as the Army closes out 2009 as the Year of the Noncommissioned Officer. The year-long celebration honored the Army's NCO Corps.

"To be honored like that made me feel my hard work was worthwhile," Morlock said. "Being an NCO has been one of the best things in my life and I learned a lot from my experiences that I can pass along to my Soldiers."