Minnesota School of Business graduate, Kari (Olson) Westby, attended the ball with her husband, Staff Sgt. Dan Westby, who received two tickets to the event out of 130, which were available for National Guard soldiers carrying Dan’s rank.
“It was 3:00 pm on Thursday when they called us,” Kari said. “I was so excited I couldn’t even talk.”
That left just three days for the Becker, Minn., couple to buy plane tickets, book a hotel with a room left, purchase an evening gown and figure out who would watch their children.
Then on Friday, one day after hearing they received the tickets and that their expenses would be paid for, they received a phone call from Washington saying there weren’t any funds for National Guard soldiers for the trip.
This news left the shoe-string budget couple l thinking they would have to cancel their dream trip; however, thanks to a story that ran on WCCO, viewer donations came pouring in and the trip was back on again.
“As soon as people saw that a solider 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 even contacted the couple and told them round-trip, first-class tickets to Washington, D.C., were taken care of.
Once in Washington, everything else came together, complete with a room at an exclusive hotel situated along the parade route, a live interview with CNN, and meeting Martin E. Dempsey, the chief of staff of the U.S. Army.
“This trip was a great honor for both of us,” said Kari. “Dan, being a soldier, was honored to represent the Minnesota National Guard at the Commander in Chief’s ball, and I was so honored to be there with him.”