STANTON — One of the things Rachael Vestergaard wanted to do on her return trip home from Afghanistan was to attend a Detroit Red Wings game.
The 2007 Central Montcalm graduate got her wish and made the trip on Feb. 8 to see the Red Wings host the Edmonton Oilers. Thanks to Red Wings’ defenseman Ian White, the trip meant so much more.
Builder Constructionman (BUCN) Vestergaard’s trip home was her first since being deployed to Afghanistan for six months. Vestergaard serves in the United States Navy and is stationed at Gulfport, Miss., as a Seebee.
White — in his first year as a Red Wing — started a program last season while with the Calgary Flames called “White’s Heroes.” That program purchased two tickets for individuals from the Canadian Forces to each Flames home game throughout the season.
After joining the Red Wings, White changed the name to “White’s Warriors” to honor both U.S. and Canadian military personnel. White still purchases two tickets to every Red Wings home game and meets with his guests after each game, as well.
Vestergaard’s mother, Mary Thomas, set the wheels in motion for her to be chosen as a guest of White.
“I wanted to go to a Red Wings game when I came home because they are my favorite hockey team,” Vestergaard said. “My mom was trying to figure out a way to put my name on the Jumbotron for a welcome back.
“The people she talked to mentioned the Ian White thing and I got picked for a game,” she added.
Vestergaard found out shortly after returning home from Afghanistan about the selection.
“I bragged to everyone about being selected,” she said. “The seats were great. They were in the lower bowl on the corner.”
Vestergaard’s mother, stepfather Erik and sister Erika all attended the game with her. Mary Thomas is already a 10-game season ticket holder for the Red Wings.
In addition to the game, they were treated to a meal, were pictured on the Jumbotron, sat on the Red Wings bench and were able to not only meet White, but other Red Wings too.
“Normally, you’re not allowed to meet anyone else. They ended up letting me go to where the players leave,” Vestergaard said. “I got to get a few other pictures with (Johan) Franzen and (Jiri) Hudler.”
As for White, Vestergaard said he was very nice.
“He was real nice. I like to joke around a lot and so did he,” Vestergaard said. “His wife was there and she was real nice. She said I could put his hockey glove on. They were all sweaty and gross.”
Vestergaard appreciates what White does for military members.
“It’s pretty awesome. I really appreciate it,” she said. “They were great seats, we got to eat for free and meet players. We even got to sit on the Red Wings bench and go back into the lockerroom. That’s stuff you don’t ever get to see and he does all that for you.”
Seebees were created during World War II. Their motto is “We build, we fight.” Seebees build camps, bases, roadways and airstrips among many other projects and have done so across the world.
Vestergaard has been in the Navy since March 2010.
“I went in the Navy to help me figure out what I wanted to do in life and to earn money for school,” Vestergard said.
With three years of active duty remaining, she isn’t sure if she will reenlist or head to college.
“It’s getting harder to stay in (Navy),” Vestergaard said. “They are cutting back. They are taking away two of regiments, three battlions and cutting 3,000 sailors this year.”
The Red Wings fan — also a Detroit Tigers and Ferris State hockey fan — ended her return home with a family trip to Las Vegas.
The Red Wings won the game 4-2, which was their 18th straight home win at the time. The Red Wings are in the midst of an NHL record 23-game home winning streak. They host Vancouver on Thursday.