| 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
Norwegian Home Guard gets inter-agency training
Posted: 2015-02-25 03:15 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn.- Soldiers of the Norwegian Home Guard conducted inter-agency training with state and local law enforcement, Feb. 12-23, 2015, at Camp Ripley.
"The training conducted by the Norwegian Rapid Reaction Force, or RRF, is based on the National Guard's focus of inter-agency cooperation in time of need," said Lt. Col. Bryce Erickson of the Minnesota National Guard.
The training was organized as part of the American-Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange; which is in its 42nd consecutive year between the Minnesota National Guard and the Norwegian Home Guard.
Minnesota, Norwegian service members retrace a successful mission, remember the terrible cost
Posted: 2015-02-24 10:14 AM
SNAASA, Norway- Airmen and Soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard participating in the 42nd American - Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange (NOREX) retraced the steps of U.S. and Norwegian special operators 70 years ago who, during the final months of World War II, waged a successful sabotage campaign against German forces occupying Norway.
The U.S. Service members, along with their Norwegian counterparts, completed a 12-mile trek on skis through mountainous terrain, as well as a reconnaissance of the Jorstad bridge and simulated demolition using signal flares. The field training exercise concluded, February 19, 2015, with a ceremony in honor of those who destroyed the bridge to stop the movement of German troops through Norway and a wreath-laying in memory of the 80 people who perished, January 13, 1945, when a train derailed into the icy water several hours after the demolition.
148th Fighter Wing 1st Sgt. Assists in Saving a Life
Posted: 2015-02-23 11:06 AM
DULUTH, Minn.- Whether he is performing his duties at the 148th Fighter Wing, Duluth, Minn., or volunteering as the Fire Chief for the Rice Lake Volunteer Fire Department, Senior Master Sgt. Scott Twining epitomizes the Air Force core value of "service before self".
As a member of the volunteer fire department and a first responder, Twining and the rest of the Rice Lake Fire Department team are often the first emergency response personnel to get to a scene. Twining estimates that 80 percent of their calls are for medical emergencies.
On Jan. 7, 2015, Twining and other members of the fire department responded to a call for help at a local business establishment. Upon their arrival, a male in his mid-fifties was collapsing from a heart attack. After a quick medical assessment, Twining and other team members set up a defibrillator and began to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Sentry Savannah brings Minnesota brothers together
Posted: 2015-02-20 10:41 AM
SAVANNAH, Ga.- In the Guard, it is not unusual to have family members in the same unit. It is unusual, however, to have three brothers doing the same job for the same unit.
Staff Sgt. Michael Sirois, Senior Airman Patrick Sirois and Airman 1st Class Nicholas Sirois are F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chiefs with the 148th Fighter Wing, Duluth, Minn. and are participating in the 2015 Sentry Savannah 15-1 training exercise taking place Feb. 7-20 in Savannah, Ga.
Nicholas just got back from Crew Chief Technical School in July 2014 and Sentry Savannah was the first deployment the brothers had an opportunity to go on together.