| 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
Minnesota Guard hosts Broadcasters Association visit
Posted: 2016-04-28 04:19 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Members of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association visited the Minnesota National Guard training site at Camp Ripley near Little Falls, April 26-27, 2016. The visit brought together radio and television broadcasters from across the state along with representatives of the Minnesota National Guard to highlight the years of positive relationships that have benefited the Minnesota public.
"On behalf of Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, the adjutant general of Minnesota, we are pleased to be able to spend time with members of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association at Camp Ripley," said Col. Kevin Olson, director of communications for the Minnesota National Guard.
For Minnesota Guardsman, military service leads to career in law enforcement
Posted: 2016-04-26 02:36 PM
ST. PAUL, Minn. - If you're looking to meet Sgt. David Zolldan of the Minnesota National Guard, there's a right way...and a wrong way. If you choose to text and drive, speed or fail to keep right on Minnesota's highways, check your rearview mirror, he might be there.
Seeing him standing proudly in the distinctive maroon and khaki uniform of the Minnesota State Patrol or on drill weekends, wearing the camouflage of a Soldier and military police officer, you might guess that Zolldan was born to serve and protect. But to him, the path to where he is today wasn't always as clear as one might think.
"I'm kind of an anomaly in my family," said Zolldan, thinking through where else he might have gone with his career. "All my family members are teachers."
Mental health focus of conference at Camp Ripley
Posted: 2016-04-20 09:27 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Yellow Ribbon community members, military leaders, and mental health professionals attended the Military Mental Health Initiative Conference April 12-14 at Camp Ripley.
Several guest speakers, along with military personnel and field professionals, met to unite community mental health providers with existing services and resources for worthwhile, up-to-date support to service members, veterans and families.
"Our objective here is to assist in facilitating a seamless transition for care between civilian and military behavioral health providers for Minnesota National Guard service members and their families," said Rebekah Pulju, behavior health officer with the Minnesota National Guard.
Minnesota ministry teams lock arms for joint training
Posted: 2016-04-13 08:29 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Army and Air Force chaplains and chaplain assistants from the Minnesota National Guard took part in annual Religious Support Team collective training at Camp Ripley, April 8-9, 2016.
The training was organized to provide a common operating picture of techniques and practices used by chaplains in the field as well as in garrison and on assignment.
"This is a great opportunity for us, bringing all the ministry elements of the Minnesota National Guard together," said Lt. Col. Michael Crawford, Camp Ripley Garrison chaplain.