WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Legion Auxiliary has awarded Sarah Smiley, author of “Dinner with the Smileys,” and her husband Lt. Cmdr. Dustin Smiley, and sons Ford, 12, Owen, 10, and Lindell, 6, with its prestigious Public Spirit Award.
American Legion Auxiliary National President Nancy Brown-Park presented the award at a special reception in the Smileys’ honor March 25 at the Auxiliary’s annual Washington, D.C., Conference.
Sarah Smiley of Bangor is author of the best-selling book “Dinner with the Smileys,” in which she chronicled a year of weekly dinners with community members and leaders while her Navy husband was deployed.
“I was moved when I read Sarah’s book,” said Brown-Park. “The sacrifices she, her husband, and their sons have made for our country are commendable. They are the sacrifices military families everywhere make every day. We honor their dedication and applaud the awareness Sarah has brought to the military family community.”
Sarah is the daughter of a retired Navy F-14 pilot and the wife of a Navy pilot. In addition to “Dinner with the Smileys,” Sarah writes a syndicated newspaper column that reaches more than 2 million readers weekly, and is the author of books “I’m Just Saying” and “Going Overboard.” She has been featured in Parade Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, O Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Military Spouse Magazine, and Newsweek, and has also been featured on a variety of popular television shows. Sarah’s column appears weekly in Bangor Daily News.
Lt. Cmdr. Dustin Smiley is a Navy helicopter pilot and a 1997 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. Dustin has deployed three times, twice in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedoms, and once for a year to Djibouti, Africa.
While deployed to Africa, Dustin’s family coped with his absence by inviting members of their community, from senators to school teachers, artists and professional athletes, to dinner once a week, to take Dustin’s seat at the table. “Dinner with the Smileys” is a heartfelt story that isn’t really about dinner or the military. It’s about 250 strangers who came together to help raise three boys in the absence of their father. It’s a love story about marriage, motherhood and the importance of community in everyone’s lives.
The American Legion Auxiliary’s Public Spirit Award, established in 1983, recognizes outstanding individuals and organizations for contributions that have a positive impact on communities, especially those efforts that benefit military, veterans and their families.
At the Public Spirit Award reception, Brown-Park presented Sarah Smiley with a lifetime membership to the American Legion Auxiliary, while Lt. Cmdr. Dustin Smiley was presented with a lifetime membership to The American Legion by American Legion National Cmdr. Daniel M. Dellinger, and the Smiley boys each received lifetime memberships to the Sons of The American Legion by Sons National Cmdr. Joseph Gladden.
Previous recipients of the auxiliary’s Public Spirit Award include Gen. Colin Powell (Ret.), Hillary Rodham Clinton, former President Ronald Reagan, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Ann Landers, and Miss America 2000 Heather Renee French.
American Legion Auxiliary members have dedicated themselves for nearly a century to meeting the needs of the nation’s veterans, military and their families both here and abroad. They volunteer millions of hours yearly, with a value of nearly $2 billion.
As part of the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization, auxiliary volunteers across the country also step up to honor veterans and military through annual scholarships and with ALA Girls State programs, teaching high school juniors to be leaders grounded in patriotism and Americanism. To learn more about the Auxiliary’s mission or to volunteer, donate or join, visit www.ALAforVeterans.org.