Smith, who serves as the District Captain of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary's Eleventh District Northern Region — based in the Santa Cruz harbor, will be recognized for his volunteer efforts to promote marine safety for boaters on the Monterey Bay.
He said that he had no inkling about the award until July 24, when a representative from Admiral Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard, called him to set up a time for him to speak with the admiral himself the following day.
“I literally had no ideal what it was about,” Smith said, adding that he wondered at the time if he was in trouble for something. “The secretary asked am I available — What am I going to say? No?”
The next day, he said, Zukunft phoned him directly to tell him of his honor, personally invite him to the 2014 National Convention of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and promise him a “selfie” photo opportunity.
“I intend to hold him to that, too,” Smith said with a chuckle. “I didn't know what to say, I was so deeply honored.”
To be nominated for the award, he said, the recommendations must come from within your own Coast Guard Auxiliary unit.
“Peers recommend you,” Smith said. “I guess last winter, this went up our chain — I had no preconception that this was even in the realm of possibility.”
A lifelong boater and U.S. Navy veteran, Smith said that he and his wife initially joined the all-volunteer Coast Guard Auxiliary 6 years ago — for the boat insurance discount, he joked.
“My wife and I took (the courses) and fell in love with it,” Smith said.
Since then, the Smiths — and their 48-member Santa Cruz flotilla — have helped boaters be safe in the harbor and on the seas, providing classes in water safety, sailing and navigation, as well as free services such as boat safety inspections, and equipment checks.
For more information about the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, visit http://cgaux.org