| 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
Bearcats toast mission success
Posted: 2014-10-23 12:31 PM
MAHNOMEN, Minn.- Soldiers, families and friends of the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment attended the unit's annual Bearcat Dinner, October 18, 2014.
The dinner, a tradition for the battalion, celebrated the proud lineages of the unit, as well as highlighted the accomplishments they have made over the past year.
"We have devoted a great deal of effort to pay attention to our unit readiness," said Sgt. 1st Class Shane Haugen, admin NCO for the battalion.
114th Transportation Company Welcome Home Ceremony
Posted: 2014-10-22 03:53 PM
CHISHOLM, Minn.- The Minnesota National Guard's Chisholm-based 114th Transportation Company is scheduled to hold their 30-day reintegration event and welcome home ceremony Saturday at Chisholm High School after a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.
"A priority of the Minnesota National Guard is to improve the wellness and resiliency of service members and their family members," said Army Capt. Ryan R. Koester, 114th Transportation Company Commander.
Minnesota Military Radio talks Veterans Voices, sequestration
Posted: 2014-10-22 09:00 AM
SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Humanities Center honored 30 Minnesota Veterans who have gone above and beyond the call of duty with the 2014 Veterans' Voices awards, September 11, 2014. Two of these veterans - Dennis Schulstad, an Air Force veteran and retired brigadier general, and Capt. Amber Manke, a current member of the Minnesota Army National Guard - recently spoke about their community involvement on Minnesota Military Radio.
The Minnesota Humanity Center's veterans voices program draws on the power of humanities to call attention to the stories and contributions of veterans. It empowers Minnesota veterans to speak in their own voices through plays, art, discussion groups and the veterans voices award.
Also this week on Minnesota Military Radio, Col. (Ret.) Don Kerr warned listeners of the coming effects on the Minnesota National Guard due to congressional gridlock. Kerr, the president of the Vessey Chapter of the Association of the United States Army, reminded listeners that the coming automatic budget cut, known as sequestration, has returned and will mean a loss of about 80,000 Soldiers across the Army nationwide.
1/34th Brigade Special Troop Battalion Reorganizes; The Army of 2020
Posted: 2014-10-18 10:31 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn.- The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division (1/34th ABCT) completed its official reorganization of the 1/34th Brigade Special Troops Battalion (1/34th BSTB) to the 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion (334th BEB), Oct. 18, 2014.
"This unit reorganization lays the groundwork for meeting the Army's 2020 vision in which brigades are self-contained combined arms formations," said Col. Robert Intress, 1/34th ABCT Commander.
133rd Airlift Wing Welcomes home Security Forces Squadron members from deployment
Posted: 2014-10-16 09:34 AM
ST. PAUL, Minn.- Thirteen airmen from the Minnesota National Guard's 133rd Airlift Wing Security Forces Squadron are scheduled to return Friday to Minnesota following a four-month deployment to Southwest Asia.
"During this deployment, the 133rd airmen melded with their active duty counterparts and utilized their citizen-airmen experiences and training to help fight the war on terrorism in an overseas environment," said Col. Terrance Sieben, the security forces squadron commander.
MPD Sgt. Blackwell: 'We're human, we have hearts, we care about people'
Posted: 2014-10-15 08:42 AM
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.(KMSP)- Talking with Minneapolis police Sgt. Katie Blackwell, it's clear she truly cares about her job and the people who live and work in the first precinct.When a man was sexually assaulting women in Ramp C downtown last week Sgt. Blackwell took it personally, making his arrest a top priority. The suspect was in custody within 48 hours.
"We just won't tolerate predators walking through our city and our communities, so yeah, I took it pretty personally," Sgt. Blackwell said.
To understand why she cares so much, one has to know where she's coming from, and it's quite a story. She grew up one of 10 kids in northeast Minneapolis, something Sgt. Blackwell says helps her connect with her community.