Where: National Building Museum.
When: October 3, 6:30 to 10 PM.
Who: There’s a reason they call high-ranking military officers “brass”—the gold braid on the Navy uniforms at this event made clear how many admirals, commanders, and senior military officials were populating the crowd—including the chief of naval operations, Admiral Gary Roughead; Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Carlton W. Kent; the commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Thad Allen; and retired legends such as former CIA director Admiral Stansfield Turner. Honorees A.G. Lafley, Proctor & Gamble head; golf legend Arnold Palmer; and Representative Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) attracted crowds, as did The Bachelor star Andy Baldwin; Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s mother, Roberta McCain; the Today show’s Ann Curry; former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge; and others—plus, of course, the many government and defense contractors who sponsored the dinner and gala.
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Scene: Few things seem fancier in Washington than galas with an extensive number of military men and women in uniform—you can’t help but feel swanky amid all the gold braid, medals, and fancy tuxedos. The Navy sailor who led the pledge of allegiance before dinner set the formal—but jocular—tone for the evening with his shout of “Beat Army!” Narrated videos introduced each of the Lone Sailor Award winners, but Arnold Palmer, a veteran of the Coast Guard, needed no introduction.
The Lone Sailor Awards, named after the Navy Memorial’s iconic statue on Pennsylvania Avenue, honor those who have lived up to the “best traditions” of the sea services—the Navy, the Marines, the Coast Guard, and the Merchant Marines. This was certainly the only gala of the year where honorees were thanked for their work on the D-5 missile and the military’s variable housing allowance. Each honoree was introduced by a friend in a roastlike speech, and the few other speakers, such as Ann Curry, peppered their speeches with military bromides like this: “The Navy gets the gravy, but the Marines get the beans.” The most interesting moment of the night came when Palmer, during his acceptance speech, called for every young person in the United States to serve a year in public service—in the military or through programs like Teach for America or the Peace Corps: “I can’t tell you how much it might mean to so many of the things we’re having trouble with today.”
Food highlight: A trio of desserts—coconut cupcakes and miniature cheesecakes and apple crisps—served with the tiniest fork.
Main course: Lamb loin and grouper filet.
Beverage of choice: Wine.
Gift-bag contents: Cigars and bottled Arnold Palmers (half lemonade, half iced tea).
Ratings (See our ratings explanation here):
Boldface names: 3.5 out of 5
Swankiness: 4 out of 5
Food and drink: 3.5 out of 5
Overall exclusivity: 4 out of 5
Total score: 15 out of 20