The Department of Defense presented its annual Spirit of Hope Award to Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival Executive Director Michael Smith during a ceremony at the Pentagon on Sept. 28.
“For me, it is like the lifetime achievement award,” Smith said. “It was just an incredible honor that really validates everything that I do to honor the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard.”
The award was inspired by the late Bob Hope, who worked generously with military men and women for five decades. It is presented to individuals or organizations who embody Hope’s core values.
Smith was nominated by U.S. Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan and supported by the Commandant’s Office.
“I got a letter on June 6 indicating I was nominated for the Department of Defense’s Spirit of Hope Award,” Smith said. “I knew I was nominated, but then didn’t hear anything.”
Smith said he received a call three weeks ago indicating he was going to be receiving the award.
Coast Guard Festival President Scott Klaassen and his family flew to Washington, D.C., to surprise Smith; as did Smith’s mother, siblings, and his wife and children.
“For me, just because it is a personal award, it still represents the work the festival committee does,” Smith said. “I’m thankful to be the face of that.”
Two evenings later, Smith was an honored guest at a cocktail reception in Cleveland, Ohio, for the opening of the traveling Hope Exhibit at the Western Reserve Historical Society, and he was introduced to hostess Linda Hope, the eldest daughter of Bob Hope.
In addition to being a big achievement, the award itself is also big in a literal sense, Smith noted.
“The medal is huge,” he said. “It’s about 6 inches round. It’s very cool.”
While he won’t be wearing the medal around town during next year’s Coast Guard Festival, Smith did note that they made a smaller replica lapel pin that he “will proudly wear.”
Other recipients of this year’s award include country music star Kellie Pickler and her husband Kyle Jacobs, who were honored for their contributions through traveling USO entertainment, among other projects.