| Inaugural Dream Comes True
Inaugural Dream Comes True
Becker Couple Attends, Thanks To Generous Donors
A daycare mom and an IT Tech from Becker returned from the president's inauguration Wednesday following an eventful week that almost never happened.
Staff Sgt. Dan Westby and his wife had been invited to the President's Inaugural Ball and received two tickets to the event through Dan's National Guard rank. Tight finances and a shoe-string budget put the once-in-a-lifetime trip in peril.
A few weeks ago, Westby, an IT Tech with the Robbinsdale School District, learned he could put his name in a lottery for a chance to garner a couple of tickets to attend President Barack Obama's second term inauguration this past weekend. One hundred and eighty tickets became available for soldiers nationwide - 130 for Westby's rank.
Westby is one of only two Minnesota soldiers invited to Washington D.C. for the event Monday.
Last Thursday, Dan and his wife, Kari received word they were indeed the beneficiaries of two tickets, so they immediately got busy making plans for the trip as quickly as they could, assuming all expenses were included in the deal.
Kari went out and bought a new gown, Dan reserved a hotel room in one of the few open hotels available for $200-$500 a night. A day or two before the flight, the Westbys were on the verge of cancelling their dream trip because the funding fell through.
That's where the Westby's commend the TV Station WCCO for fulfilling their hopes.
WCCO Reporter Rachel Slavik did a pre-story of the couple last week and in her story she told her viewers the family was considering abandoning the trip.
"We just don't know how we're going to get there," Kari said in the interview. "If we can't go, it's going to break both our hearts."
At that point, the couple began searching for plane tickets -- the cheapest being $600 each.
The Westbys got word immediately after the story ran on TV that donations were coming in to aid them in their trip.
"As soon as people saw that a soldier was involved, people started giving," said Kari. "The station at one point had to stop taking donations because of the generosity of all these people."
Sun Country's CEO contacted the Westbys and told them not to worry about the flight, that he would provide first-class tickets for them to and from Washington D.C. Other donors covered their hotel, spending money, souvenirs for the kids and transportation.
And Kari's beautiful new gown was covered as well.
"A woman from New Prague drove all the way to our house here in Becker to give us a check to pay for our expenses," said Kari. "I was just weeping as I asked her why she would do such a caring thing."
"She told me she wanted to honor a soldier for all they've done for this country," said Kari.
"If it weren't for the generosity of other people that was completely a gift from God, it would not have happened," said Dan.
In Washington, the Westbys got a room in an exclusive hotel along the parade route and near the U.S. Capitol. As part of their special treatment, the Wetstbys were allowed to watch the parade from their hotel rooftop with dozens of snipers and secret service officials nearby.
They also were interviewed live on TV by Reporter Suzanne Malveaux from CNN.
One of the couple's favorite moments was at the Commander-in-Chief's Ball which included guests of active-duty, reserve military, Medal of Honor recipients, Wounded Warriors and their spouses. Dan and Kari had the opportunity to meet and talk to Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chief of staff of the U.S. Army.
"Wow, to see the commander in chief and talk with the chief of staff has been like a dream for me," said Dan, who has served for 16 years in the Guard. "I am so blessed to have been given this opportunity to meet my superiors."
Dan has been deployed three times, once to Kosovo in 1999-2000 and twice to Iraq (2003-05, 2009). His duties are to detect enemy forces and track indirect fire as a field artillery radar operator.
Kari works as a daycare provider out of her home and the Westbys have seven children, ages ranging from four to 14. Kari is also attempting to launch a Family Readiness Group (FRG) in Becker and have the City of Becker designated as a "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon" city. Beyond the Yellow Ribbon is a comprehensive program that creates awareness for the purpose of connecting Service members and their families with community support, training, services and resources.
"This whole experience has just been amazing," said Kari. "So many people stepping forward to help us out and showing their appreciation for my husband and his service. It's been like a dream."
1/25/2013 4:27:00 PM
Camp Ripley takes on largest solar energy project on a military base in MN
Posted: 2014-08-28 08:48 AM
Little Falls, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Duluth-based Minnesota Power and the Minnesota National Guard signed an agreement on Wednesday to construct the largest solar energy installation on military property in the state.
"This solar array will start the road to making Camp Ripley net zero in energy," said Major General, Rick Nash who is with the Minnesota National Guard.
Minnesota National Guard teams with private sector to bring solar energy to Camp Ripley
Posted: 2014-08-27 09:53 AM
Little Falls, Minn.-- The Minnesota National Guard and Minnesota Power will join forces to build a major solar energy project at Camp Ripley, the largest military base in Minnesota.
The Minnesota National Guard and Duluth-based Minnesota Power today signed a memorandum of understanding outlining plans to build a 10-megawatt utility-scale solar energy array spanning 100 acres at Camp Ripley. The project will be the largest solar energy installation on any National Guard base in the country. Minnesota Power will also identify ways to help the Guard save 30 percent of its energy, and install backup generation for energy security at Camp Ripley.
Minnesota Military Museum Curator and Secretary of State discuss Red Bull history
Posted: 2014-08-25 01:26 PM
Last Memorial Day, Doug Bekke, the curator of the Minnesota Military Museum at Camp Ripley and Minnesota's Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie had the opportunity to sit down with Tom Lyons of Minnesota Military Radio in Minneapolis to discuss the 34th Infantry Division and Minnesota's military history.
Lyons: Welcome back to our special Memorial Day edition of Minnesota Military Radio. I am your host Tom Lyons. This is Twin Cities News Talk AM1230. Jack and Ben, Up and At 'Em in the Morning, will be back tomorrow morning, but today, all morning, we'll be talking about Memorial Day with our special guests and my co-host this morning has been Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie. Mr secretary, you're always here early in the morning and your full energy. I don't know how you do that at this hour.