| 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
Hugo Yellow Ribbon Network Celebrates Five Years
Posted: 2014-12-18 10:32 AM
HUGO, Minn.- The city of Hugo celebrated its fifth anniversary as a Yellow Ribbon community at their city council meeting, Dec.15. The Minnesota National Guard's, Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Richard C. Nash, and Director of Military Outreach, Annette Kuyper, were on hand to say thank you to Hugo and its Yellow Ribbon Network volunteers.
"This city has changed how citizens can come together to support, honor and recognize veterans, Service members and their families," said Nash. "I especially commend Chuck Haas for all he has done to lead these efforts in your community."
Hugo Yellow Ribbon network Chairman Chuck Haas, a retired business owner, proud grandfather of six and a member of the Hugo city council since 1998 has been part of the Hugo program since the beginning.
A First Sergeant's Surprise
Posted: 2014-12-16 08:13 AM
BLOOMINGTON, Minn.- The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., became a Yellow Ribbon company earlier this year, which proclaims the company's dedication to past and present Service members and their families. To celebrate this, they held its first Holiday for Heroes event at the Mall the morning of Dec. 14.
The event shut down the park for a few hours on Sunday to allow veterans and their families to come and enjoy all the rides for free, as well as some food and giveaways. More than 3,000 took part in the event, but the day will be the most unforgettable for family and friends of 1st Sgt. Robert Renning of the 133rd Airlift Wing in St. Paul, Minn.
204th ASMC commander provides mission update on Minnesota Military Radio
Posted: 2014-12-15 02:06 PM
ST. PAUL, Minn.- More than 40 Soldiers with the Minnesota National Guard's 204th Area Support Medical Company left Cottage Grove, Sept 14, 2014, for a nine-month deployment in support of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in Sinai, Egypt.
After pre-deployment training at Fort Dix, N.J., the unit arrived in Eqypt in mid-October to begin their mission of providing health service support, medical care and health protection measures for members of 14 different nations that make up the MFO.
Capt. Jonathan Vang, commander of the 204th ASMC, recently called in to Minnesota Military Radio to give an update on how the unit is adapting to its new mission overseas.
CMSAF Cody visits with 148th Airmen
Posted: 2014-12-15 01:01 PM
DULUTH, Minn.- Seven Airmen from the 148th Fighter Wing, Duluth, Minn. were given the opportunity to visit with the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody on Nov. 1, 2014. Chief Cody was in Minnesota to visit the 934th Airlift Wing, Minneapolis, Minn. during their drill weekend and held an Airmen's Call which members of the 148FW attended.
During the Airmen's Call, Chief Cody stressed the importance of all components of the Air Force to include the Guard and Reserve, discussed downsizing the force and what that might mean to future missions and thanked everyone for the contributions they make to the Air Force.
"I thought that the Chief's town-hall meeting format was great. He opened the floor to questions right off the bat and really put himself out there for the ranks to ask questions, said Master Sgt. Nick Downs, 148th Fighter Wing. The atmosphere and his demeanor made it comfortable for any Airman to ask questions."