A Military Family Builds Community: 52 Dinners, 52 Guests

A January dinner, Sen. Susan Collins (second from left) visits with Sarah Smiley and her sons Owen, Lindell and Ford, one of 52 planned during the yearlong deployment.

Imagine inviting someone different into your home every week for a year – a school teacher – a cancer survivor – a senator – a police chief – University of Maine Hockey team members.

That’s how the Smiley family is marking the year-long deployment of their husband and dad,  Lt. Cmdr. Dustin Smiley, with 52 dinners, 52 guests.

The Smiley family has made a video and the U.S. Navy made it public through Twitter:

Sarah Smiley’s website has a fantastic page of reader submitted  tips for dealing with deployment:

  • A Lollipop Tree: We went to the craft store and bought a Styrofoam globe, a stick and a flower pot with the green arrangement foam. Then we put a small lollipop in the globe for each day my husband would be gone (6 months is a lot of lollipops) and every night my son could take one out.
  • Picture This: When my husband went on deployment the first time, we took pictures of him in all of his favorite spots in the house. The day he left I placed all of his pictures in their designated areas so that I would never feel like he was gone.
  • Counting Trash: The first time my husband was deployed we hadn’t yet had our daughter. Instead of dwelling on the number of days he was going to be gone, I counted the number of times I had to take the garbage out. It sounds weird but starting at 26 instead of 180 really worked nicely.

Sarah Smiley is a syndicated columnist, author, and military wife. Sarah and her husband Dustin have three children: Ford (10), Owen (8) and Lindell (4). Dustin is a Lt. Cmdr. in the Navy. They live in Maine.

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