THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE'S NATIONAL Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) recently selected Calabasas, Calif.-based Ryland Homes as a 2005 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award recipient. The award shines a spotlight on American employers that provide extraordinary assistance to their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve.

The home builder is one of an elite group of 15 employers chosen from nearly 1,500 nominations by national guardsmen and reservists. Other award recipients include Alticor; Citizens Financial Group; Eaton Corp.; Enterprise Rent-a-Car; IDA-CORP; Los Angeles Police Department; Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections; Pioneer Financial Services; Sears, Roebuck and Co.; South Dakota State University; State of Delaware; Toyota Motor Sales, USAInc.; USAA; and Wachovia Corp.

Ryan Petersen, a project supervisor for Ryland in the Twin Cities division and a Marine Corps reserve sergeant, nominated the company for its extraordinary support during his two 10-month, back-to-back tours in Iraq. Twin Cities division president Wayne Soojian spearheaded several initiatives, which ranged from sending care packages to extensively remodeling Petersen's home as a homecoming surprise.

“I'm very fortunate to be working for a company like Ryland,” Petersen says. “It makes a deployment like that much easier.”

Secretary of Defense William Perry created the award in 1996. This year's award ceremonies took place Oct. 15, 2005, in Washington, D.C.