By USS John C. Stennis Public Affairs

PACIFIC OCEAN – When Religious Program Specialist Seaman Ashlei Chwalek received her bingo ticket, she knew the odds of winning were against her.

She knew USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) Sailors purchased 1586 tickets for the ship-board game, so she did not get excited. She didn’t get excited when the announcers on the ship’s internal TV system started calling her numbers or when she only had a few numbers left. When she won the grand prize and received two tickets to the Super Bowl, she did not get excited. She got ecstatic.

“I was in shock,” said Chwalek. “When I won, I started running to the TV studio to get my tickets; and I didn’t even know where I was going, so a friend had to help me. To be able to represent my family, younger females and Stennis at the Super Bowl at such a young age is a nerve wracking and incredible experience.”

Chwalek, a native of Tucson, Ariz. joined the Navy in April 2013, and her desire to help others led her to work in religious ministries, which she sees as following in the footsteps of her father.

“My dad is very involved in ministry and believes in changing people’s lives, and I wanted to do something as meaningful as he has done,” she said. “I hope that as I continue my Navy career and grow as I person, I continue to share a deeper and more meaningful story with other young females who need love, support and a good role model in their lives.”

It was the bond between father and daughter that caused Chwalek to invite her dad, Tony Chwalek, to watch the game with her. Reunited in Glendale, Ariz., less than two hours away from her hometown, Chwalek, her father and three younger sisters, Kat, Lizzie and Anna, set out on a weekend of family and football.

The weekend was not without drama though. Chwalek, like hundreds of other Super Bowl ticket holders, fell victim to ticket brokers’ renegotiation tactics. The verbal price agreement for her tickets by Stennis’ Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) team, who ran the ship-board bingo game, fell through when the broker found another buyer willing to pay a lot more money.

After more than 24 hours of non-stop, intense searching, MWR located two tickets for Chwalek and the plan for a once-in-a-lifetime weekend was back on track.

“The locker room exhibit [inside the NFL Experience] was fascinating,” said Tony. “Being able to see the history of the teams and how the uniforms changed throughout the years was really interesting.” Chwalekwas overwhelmed by the passionate fandom evident throughout the weekend.

“I was amazed by the intensity of the crowds,” Chwaleksaid. “Seeing how excited everyone was to see the [Vince Lombardi] trophy and the collection of Super Bowl rings reminded me of people at worship. It was crazy.”

After a long day of the exploring the NFL experience and the city of Glendale, the Chwalek family retired to their hotel rooms to make signs cheering on their favorite team and to prepare for the big day ahead.

“I’ve never seen a game live, so I’m very excited,” said Tony. “The fact that my first game is the Super Bowl and I get to watch it with my daughter is just amazing.”

Sunday evening, as father and daughter returned from the game, Chwalekechoed her father’s sentiment and stressed that time with family was the best gift she received.

“This was a once in a lifetime experience,” said Chwalek. “Who would have thought that playing one game of bingo would have led to this weekend? I am disappointed that the Seahawks didn’t win of course, but I’m so thankful that I was able to see my family and go to the game with my dad.”

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