By J.D. LeipoldMay 23, 2013
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 23, 2013) -- More than 1,000 sightseers, veterans and children dressed in pink, blue, green and yellow t-shirts from schools around the country turned out for a special "twilight tattoo" at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., to share in the presentation of service medals to five civilians for their contributions to Soldiers, wounded warriors and their families.
Following the rendering of honors and presentation of colors, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno spoke to a cheering audience about the selfless service and dedication of the awardees as they worked to improve the morale, welfare and quality of life for thousands of Soldiers.
"Over the last 12 years, I've been overwhelmed [by] and appreciative of the generosity of so many Americans who have come forward to assist our Soldiers, wounded warriors and families," he said. "These individuals are all examples of those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help their fellow man, to make a true difference in this country. We are indebted to each and every one of you."
The five civilians honored at the event included musician and film director Gary Sinise; businesswoman and real estate producer Kathleen Gagg; Fisher House Foundation chairman, Ken Fisher; Army prosthetist at the Center for the Intrepid, Ryan Blanck; and Deborah Tymon, senior vice president of marketing for the New York Yankees.
Sinise is the creator of the "Gary Sinise Foundation," which provides service members, veterans, family members, and first responders with unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire strengthen and build communities. Sinise's foundation also partnered with the "Tunnel to Towers Foundation" to create a new organization, called "Building for America's Bravest." That program has built 25 homes for wounded veterans.
Gagg, a businesswoman, serves as the executive director of the "Got Your Back" network. She is also co-founder of "Camp Better America." The group "Got Your Back" mentors the children and spouses of fallen Soldiers. At the camp, Soldiers who are readjusting to civilian life can reconnect with their families during sponsored retreats and activities.
"We try to pair up children with inspirational leaders and mentors," Gagg said of the "Got Your Back" network. "And we do different camps to show children they can accomplish anything they set their minds to, this is my way of saying thank you."
Ken Fisher serves as the chairman of the Fisher House Foundation. The foundation, which carries his family name, has built 60 houses world-wide near military and Veterans Affairs hospitals to serve as homes for families who have service members being treated in medical facilities. Some 19,000 military families are served annually by the Fisher Home Foundation.
"I was once at a lunch where President Reagan was honored and he was given a medal -- he said, 'I don't know if it's right to get a medal for doing your duty.' That's how I feel," Fisher said of being honored at the ceremony. "I'm incredibly honored by the ceremony and the award, but every American needs to do something. I accept this medal on behalf of the families who have had to use the house. I like to say we have your back."
Deborah Tymon, the senior vice president of marketing with the New York Yankees, was honored for raising awareness and morale of Soldiers through public recognition at Yankee ballgames and other team events. She also helped develop the relationship between the ball team and the "Wounded Warrior Project," created "Military Appreciation Day" at Yankee Stadium, and led efforts to deliver thousands of care packages to service members in theater.
As a prosthetist at the Center for the Intrepid, Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, Ryan Blanck builds artificial limbs and other medical equipment for wounded service members. He was honored, in part, for his work leading a team in the development of the "Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis," or IDEO brace. That piece of equipment helps reduce pain for those who suffered lower leg injuries. Blanck said he had noticed that service members who had suffered such injuries had been asking for amputations, as they were suffering from pain caused by nerve damage to their nerves and muscles.
"What makes my job special are the patients," Blanck said. "The inspiring fact of it all is what these folks have done for our country makes guys like me want to do the best we can. Their drive and commitment to rehabilitating themselves to get back to what they want to do in life, combat or not, it's inspiring to my folks and makes us better as a team."
Blanck received the "Meritorious Civilian Service Award" at the ceremony, as he is a government employee. The other recipients were presented with an "Outstanding Civilian Service Award."
The Army Outstanding Civilian Service Award Medal and Army Meritorious Civilian Service Award Medal are the third highest honors awarded by the Department of the Army to civilians and civilian employees of the Army.
Following the awards, the honored guests and crowd were treated to the pageantry of the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own," the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, and the silent rifle maneuvers of the U.S. Army Drill Team. The Salute from the Chief tattoo was capped by the firing of a cannon by the Presidential Salute Battery.