Approaching her husband Derrick Hasty’s 40th birthday - a Marine veteran - Nicole Hasty knew she wanted to get him something special.
Just what - she wasn't sure.
But what she did know is that her husband hadn’t seen many of his fellow Marines in years. He had served with them back in the early 2000s, including a tour in Iraq at the dawn of the Iraq War.
“I was trying to figure out something to do for his 40th birthday that was special,” Nicole Hasty said. “I didn’t know what to get him.”
Instead of something material, Nicole Hasty decided to throw a surprise party for her husband with family and friends.
But there was a twist. The surprise party wasn’t the real surprise.
The real surprise would come when several of his fellow Marines - many whom he hadn’t seen in years - would be at the party to welcome him after all of this time.
“I decided to do this, because I know this is really dear to his heart,” Nicole Hasty said.
She got to work, first by contacting many of his former comrades on Facebook to ask if they’d be willing to make a trip.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Justin Day said, talking about when Nicole Hasty first pitched the idea to him and the guys.
“I hadn’t seen him in like 12 years,” Reggie Porter said. “It was definitely a good idea.”
Their response? Absolutely.
“I told her we’re all coming,” Joe Polingo said. “We’ll all be there.”
“I wasn’t going to miss it,” Rudi Oosting said.
“Hell yeah,” Roderick Olds said.
“I was excited,” Damon Karon said. “Hasting’s always been there for me.”
The six men had committed to coming down. But Nicole Hasting ran into a conundrum - what would they do once the party was over Friday night?
“Well, it’s a party but what am I going to do with all of these guys for the weekend?” she said.
She set out to create an itinerary for Saturday, complete with a three-hour morning range session at the Painted Post Gun Club, and a beer tour along the Keuka Lake Beer Trail.
She planned for the group to make stops at the Brewery of Broken Dreams, the Keuka Brewing Company and the Finger Lakes Beer Company in Hammondsport, as well as the Iron Flamingo Brewery in Corning.
While in the planning phases, she was surprised to find an extreme outpouring of generosity from various parts of the community to help her put the weekend together.
Businesses and organizations gave her discounted rates, special prices and offers as a token of appreciation for the Marines’ service:
n The Finger Lakes Beer Trail offered 14 beer passports for discounts on beer while on the beer tour.
n A discounted bus for transportation on the beer tour.
n The Painted Post Gun Club allowed the men to shoot at the range throughout the morning Saturday, as long as Nicole Hasty became a member.
n The Corning Radisson offered a special discounted rate for the Marines to stay for the weekend.
n Pudgies Pizza in Corning offered two free sheet pizzas.
n The Woodhouse Stadium Grill offered four dozen free chicken wings.
n The Corning American Legion allowed Nicole Hasty - a Legion member - to throw the surprise party at the Legion.
The time came Friday night for the big surprise. Dozens of family and friends filled the Corning American Legion anticipating Derrick and Nicole Hasty’s arrival.
Meanwhile, the Marines hid in the back, staying out of sight until the big reveal.
“Surprise!” The party yelled, as Derrick Hasty walked into the Legion a little after 6 p.m. Friday. Nicole Hasty then proceeded to give a speech, and called out the Marines one-by-one from the back room.
On a night that appearingly couldn’t get any better, Derrick Hasty and his fellow marines embraced after many years away from one another. That first round of drinks at the bar kicked off a weekend that none of the men will forget any time soon.
“It’s a beautiful thing to see these guys again,” Derrick Hasty said. “They’re my brothers.”