| 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 DC 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 DC 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 US 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 US 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 strikes first before wildfire season
Posted: 2017-03-24 10:19 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Every spring Camp Ripley begins its annual controlled burn program to help reduce the risk of wildfire during training.
"Usually the burns are completed every spring before the summer annual training season begins," said Tim Notch, training area coordinator on Camp Ripley. "However, the warmer weather conditions provide a nice opportunity for preventative burns earlier this season."
As in years past Camp Ripley will conduct controlled burns on approximately 13,000 acres of the 53,000-acre military reservation. The burns are done in coordination with the staffs of the Camp Ripley Department of Public Works and the Camp Ripley Environmental Department along with support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Minnesota Guardsman earns recognition through Leads 2 Enlistment program
Posted: 2017-03-23 09:46 AM
DULUTH, Minn. - Pfc. Trevor Nelson received the Minnesota Distinguished Recruiting Ribbon and a Minnesota Recruiting and Retention Battalion medallion for excellence from Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Serbus, March 18, 2017, at the Duluth Armory. Nelson earned these awards as part of the online referral system, Leads 2 Enlistment for referring four friends who have joined the Minnesota National Guard.
"I talked to some buddies in my school about the Guard. They liked the benefits, so I put their info in the app and let my recruiter take over." said Nelson. "I thought it would be fun to serve with friends and help them figure out their path in life."
Nelson is currently a senior at Cloquet Senior High School and assigned to the Recruit Sustainment Program in Duluth. He attended basic training at Fort Benning in the summer of 2016 with follow-on training in the summer of 2017 to become an infantryman.
Litchfield and Local Veteran Honor Gen. John Vessey at Armory Open House
Posted: 2017-03-10 08:50 AM
LITCHFIELD, Minn. -Bruce Cottington, a Navy veteran of WWII and Korea, donated a bronze bust of Gen. John W. Vessey, Jr. to the Litchfield National Guard unit during the armory's public open house event March 4. Cottington, a Litchfield resident, commands the Minnesota Chapter of the Veterans of Underage Military Service. VUMS members enlisted in the military prior to the minimum age requirement in order to serve their country during WWII. Cottington received the bust from Vessey, a fellow VUMS member. Both enlisted in the military at the age of 16.
The highlight of the 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion open house was the unveiling of the sculpture. The unit was very supportive when Cottington proposed donating the sculpture. The Litchfield community has always been very supportive of the National Guard over the years, so the open house was a chance to say 'thanks' to their neighbors. "This was a great opportunity to honor Bruce and to honor Gen. Vessey," said B Co., 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion Commander, Capt. Seth Goreham. Bravo Company also has a tight relationship with the local American Legion and VFW. Many Litchfield citizens are former members of Bravo Company, or the unit's predecessors A Co, 682nd Engineer Battalion, and the 849th Mobility Augmentation Company.
Camp Ripley welcomes new command sergeant major
Posted: 2017-03-08 03:29 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The garrison command team of Camp Ripley, family, friends and colleagues from the Minnesota National Guard attended a Change of Responsibility ceremony between Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Worden and Command Sgt. Maj. Matt Erickson, March 5, 2017, at Camp Ripley.
The ceremony was an official "passing of the sword" from one senior noncommissioned officer to the next and assumption of the duties and responsibilities that go along with the position of Garrison Command Sergeant Major.
As with many military ceremonies those in attendance welcomed Erickson as a new member of the team and bid farewell, recognized and thanked Worden for his service.