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Couple honored with Fisher award

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Oct. 27, 2006) -- A husband and wife have been honored for their support of the military in Bangor, Maine.

Harry Rideout and Sharon Rideout are the 2005 recipients of the Zachary Fisher and Elizabeth Fisher Distinguished Civilian Humanitarian Award. The two were honored during a ceremony at the Pentagon Oct. 26.

Together, the Rideouts created the Bangor Greeters Group at Bangor International Airport, Maine. The all-volunteer group greets Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines as they pass through the airport, either going to or returning from overseas deployments.

Since the group began in May 2003, they have touched the lives more than 200,000 U.S. military members. In addition to welcoming members home and wishing them well as they deploy, the group also lends returning members cellular phones so they can call loved ones as they step off their airplanes. The group also was instrumental in creating a welcome facility at the airport where troops can relax before deploying or can wait for a ride upon returning to the United States.

The Rideouts also headed the clean-up of the home of a Soldier and his family after it was destroyed by fire.

In another effort, they led the distribution of flannel shirts and sweatshirts to veterans in the Togus Medical Center in Augusta, Maine.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne said the Rideout's contributions to troop morale is in line with the Department of Defense's own priorities.

"Our young men and women are our No. 1 priority in the Department of Defense," he said. "And when I see great Americans like the Rideouts taking it upon themselves to support (servicemembers), it makes me very proud to also be in service to this nation."

While speaking at the ceremony, Mrs. Rideout said she and her husband appreciated the honor but shifted focus from their contributions to those of U.S. Military members.

"It has always been a pleasure to thank a Soldier, to thank a member of our United States military for (his or her) service to our country. (They) are keeping America safe, and we appreciate it so much," she said. "We are very honored, and very humbled, and grateful for this award. But we want you to know this is not about us. It is about the members, and the men and women in our Army, our Air Force, our Navy and our Marine Corps, those who have served, those who are serving, and those who will serve."

In 1996, the Department of Defense service secretaries created the Fisher award in honor of Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher who contributed extensively to the support and welfare of members of the armed services. The Fishers are best known as founders of the Fisher House, which is special lodging for military families with sick or injured loved ones.

The responsibility for administration and presentation of the Fisher award rotates among the services each year. All service branches vote on the final recipient, and all services can make nominations. This year, the Air Force was responsible for the presentation.