The National Building Museum served as the backdrop for Tuesday evening's “Lone Sailor” dinner, a black-tie fund-raiser and awards ceremony for the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation. Roughly 850 guests, including high-ranking military officials, Today show co-host Ann Curry, Lieutenant Andy Baldwin (of The Bachelor fame), and John McCain's mother Roberta gathered in the museum's main atrium. The venue and crowd marked a large increase from the event's auspicious 1987 beginnings, when it garnered 350 guests in the Ritz-Carlton ballroom.
Sponsored by consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, the pre-dinner cocktail reception was purposefully low on decor—a central bar sat alongside gold-draped tables with votive centerpieces—in order to keep the focus on what U.S. Navy Memorial manager of special events David Jonas called the “awe-inspiring” venue. The evening's purpose (and host) was ever-present, with large-scale images of the U.S. Navy Memorial and a selection of service flags adorning the room, and sailors standing watch at each entryway, greeting guests and assisting women and men up and down stairs as necessary. “We wanted to go with a sea-service theme,” Jonas said.
The Navy band announced a call to dinner promptly at 7:15 p.m. (this is the military, after all), and guests made their way to the atrium's larger sectioned-off dining area, where gold-rimmed china and glassware on navy chargers and small floral centerpieces of roses, lilies, violets, and hydrangea topped the navy- and gold-draped tables.
The focal point of the room was a well-lit stage, with its backdrop of gold fabric draped from the venue's multi-tiered ceiling. Large television monitors hung throughout the dining area so that guests in the rear of the venue could see the “Lone Sailor” awards ceremony. The 2008 honorees included Congressman Norm Dicks, steel magnate John H. McConnell, Procter & Gamble C.E.O. A.G. Lafley, and professional golfer Arnold Palmer. (The honorees are all sea-service veterans.)
After dinner service from Occasions, a dessert buffet (sponsored by defense technology company Raytheon) included a trio of American-themed miniature desserts—cherry-topped chocolate cheesecake, an apple crisp, and coconut cupcakes with red, white, and blue sprinkles. The buffet was an “intentional choice to eliminate a mad rush for the valet,” said Jonas.
As guests waited for the valets, who had umbrellas on hand to handle the unexpected cloudburst, small packets of chocolate chip and sugar cookies and to-go cups of Starbucks coffee made one last impression. And, because the military rises before the sun, guests headed home by 10:30 p.m.
Correction: This story has been updated to correctly identify Roberta McCain.