| 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 Garrison Unit Ministry Team to deploy
Posted: 2016-12-07 03:42 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Soldiers of the Camp Ripley Training Support Unit recognized and gave best wishes to their Unit Ministry Team, Dec. 3, 2016, during the annual holiday party.
Chaplain Lt. Col. Michael Crawford and Staff Sgt. Carl Seim of the 47th Chaplain Detachment assigned to Camp Ripley will deploy overseas following mobilization training at Fort Hood, Texas, beginning the last week of December.
"We are a two-man unit; I'm the commander and Sergeant Seim is everything else," said Chaplain Crawford light-heartedly.
Camp Ripley drives on with rebuild
Posted: 2016-12-02 01:01 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Following a damaging storm last fall, Camp Ripley and the Minnesota National Guard set plans in motion for the rebuilding of housing and maintenance structures on the installation.
"The replacement strategy for outdated and damaged buildings is integrated into our long-range development plan to ensure Camp Ripley is able to meet future mission requirements," said Deputy Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Chad Sackett.
The location of Camp Ripley was selected in 1929 by Minnesota's Adjutant General, Ellard Walsh, in order to replace the small, outmoded 200-acre training camp in southern Minnesota created in 1888.
Chef Challenge serves up for military and community
Posted: 2016-11-30 02:51 PM
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - Minnesota National Guard food service specialists competed for "Top Chef" at the Nov. 11 Veterans Day Chef Challenge at the Mall of America.
To celebrate Veterans Day the Mall of America, Star Tribune and Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Network teamed up to host the ultimate Chef Challenge pairing Minnesota National Guard personnel with chefs from restaurants located at the Mall of America.
"It was a unique situation and lots of fun," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Paul Erickson of Camp Ripley, who was entered as one of the competitors for the first round of the competition.
Uncovering the past at Camp Ripley
Posted: 2016-11-16 12:03 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. -Archaeologists from Commonwealth Heritage Group out of Milwaukee, Wis., concluded phase I inventory surveys Nov. 4, 2016, at Camp Ripley.
The surveys help to identify lands possibly used as settlements on the Camp Ripley reservation, how they connect to the surrounding areas and if they hold any significant historical value.
"Some of the same lands that Camp Ripley uses for the training of our Service members and inter-agency partners, were once settlements dating back hundreds of years," said Patrick Neumann, Cultural Resources manager at Camp Ripley.