The teenagers’ sparkling eyes were wide in amazement as they caught sight of the
great hall. They saw circular tables draped in blue and gold, flanked by delicate gold chairs and adorned with fresh flowers, candles, and a miniature pewter statue at each place setting.The young women are youth officers from Sea Scout ships in the Northeast Region, who were treated to an unforgettable evening on September 15, 2010.
Wearing their dress uniforms, the Sea Scouts dined in style in a grand ballroom with lofty ceiling, lighted fountain and beautifully prepared gourmet food, while watching Bill Cosby speak on stage. Seventeen-year-old Sarah Fucello—newly-elected Boatswain of Sea Scout Ship 7916—and fourteen-year-old Brenda Renninger—crew leader with Ship 548 and boatswain of the NCAC council—enjoyed this and more at the 23rd Annual Lone Sailor Award dinner hosted by the Navy Memorial at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. The building was decked out beautifully for this very special event, with dramatic lighting and greenery. Sarah had “never been somewhere so fancy,” before and Brenda agreed, saying the building probably the nicest I’ve ever seen.”
The Lone Sailor Award is given to Sea Service veterans “who have excelled with distinction in their respective civilian careers while exemplifying the Navy core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment.” Past recipients include elected officials, as well as author James Michener, golf pro Arnold Palmer, and actor Tony Curtis.
Having previously heard about the dinner and viewing pictures, Sarah was very excited when she received the invitation. “I spent all day jumping off the walls,” she said. Brenda wasn’t initially sure exactly what the event was, but in talking to her skipper and to Sarah about it, she realized the magnitude of the invitation. Brenda was shocked, “because it was such a high class dinner and a real honor. “I was like, whoa, my skipper asked me to go to this?” she said.
Both scouts had their uniforms dry-cleaned for the event. Brenda said she “made sure all my patches were right, washed my cover to make sure it was clean.” Sarah “spent all day very carefully getting ready, making everything as perfect as I could make it, thinking the whole time on what it would be like to go and see Bill Cosby…I’ve never been in the same room with someone that famous before.” Brenda appreciated that “everybody was all dressed up in their uniforms and dresses and looked beautiful” at the dinner.
This year’s Lone Sailor Award honorees were the actor/comedian William H. Cosby, Jr.,PhD, a United States Navy Veteran; Eddie LeBaron, famed Washington Redskins- and Dallas Cowboys Quarterback and Korean War Veteran, United States Marine Corps; and Lanier Phillips, the first African-American Sonar Technician, United States Navy, World War II Veteran and Survivor of the USS Truxtun shipwreck. During the dinner, the scouts enjoyed watching what Sarah called “a captivating slideshow of each honoree,” and then heard the gentlemen speak.
Brenda said “their stories were so interesting to hear…Bill Cosby was my favorite; he was so funny and really made his story interesting!” Sarah said she “wasn’t expecting all the honorees to speak and was cool they really could speak tell their view of their experiences. It thrilled me!”
Sea Scout attendees are selected from a group of award-winners in the NCAC (National Capitol Area Council to fill the 4-6 seats given to the nautical scouting program. A somewhat mysterious donor, Robert Dorion—about whom little is known—makes the seats available. He has sponsored a table at the dinner for about the past six years, sends representatives in his place and always includes room for Sea Scouts. If given the opportunity, each of the young women would thank Mr. Dorion. Brenda thinks it is “really generous of him to donate a table like that to Sea Scouts,” and Sarah would “tell him I really appreciate his giving us this opportunity. It’s very generous to donate to Sea Scouts…we’re in our teen years, so we don’t have the decorum of the adults he would usually invite to that.”
After the event, Sarah enthusiastically said that if she were invited again, “I would accept in a heartbeat. I had a very fun time and enjoyed many experiences I had never encountered before.” Brenda exclaimed that “this was really a once in a life time experience and I wouldn’t have asked to go with a different group of people to share the experience with!”