Hauser Lake’s most famous Marines – Robert and Matt Shipp – were headed home for the holidays Wednesday.
The twin brothers, and Robert’s wife, Dusty, were due at Spokane International Airport late Wednesday night. The men have been training at separate Southern California bases since spring, when they returned from their first tours of duty in the Middle East.
“It’s great. This will probably be one of the (last) holidays for a while (when) they all get to be together,” said their mother, Leslee Shipp. “I think they get to be home for Christmas, too, which is way cool.”
The brothers’ journey from high school through boot camp and deployment was chronicled in a series of stories and photos published in The Spokesman-Review from June 2006 to May 2008.
Until Sunday, when they’ll return to California, the twins are in store for a whirlwind weekend packed with family festivities. Their parents are hosting 20 to 25 friends and relatives for Thanksgiving. Then Robert and Dusty will have a wedding reception Saturday at the Hauser Lake Resort, the family business.
Robert and Dusty married hastily last October in Coeur d’Alene before he shipped out. Now they plan to celebrate their marriage in style, family members said.
One crucial difference: This is one wedding celebration Matt won’t have to miss. When Robert and Dusty married, Matt was 7,000 miles away in Iraq.
“There’s nothing I’d rather be home for,” said Matt Shipp from his base at Twentynine Palms, where he lives with his wife, Jessica.
“I wouldn’t have done it if he wasn’t here,” said Robert Shipp from his base at Camp Pendleton. “I wouldn’t have had it until he was able to be present.”
Matt returned to the U.S. in May, and Robert followed in June. They’ve been living on or near their bases with their wives since then and have seen each other occasionally. Most recently, they met up in Las Vegas for their Marine Corps formal dances.
“I miss him like crazy,” Matt said of his fraternal twin. “He’s my best friend. Every chance we get we talk and try to hang out.”
Robert said that he’s looking forward to hanging out and hunting deer, bear or cougar with his brother when they’re home. They’ll likely also tip a beer or two to celebrate their birthday; both turned 21 on Nov. 18.
The brothers enlisted just over two years ago after graduating from high school. Matt’s unit, the 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, was sent to Iraq last October and spent time in Anbar desert, near the city of Rutbah, along the country’s western border. Robert’s unit, the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, was deployed with a Marine Expeditionary Unit that spent time on an amphibious assault ship and in the Kuwait desert.
Matt said he doesn’t know when he’ll deploy again, but Robert expects to ship out April 20.
“We’ve been told Iraq or Afghanistan,” Robert said. “The deployment date has already changed three times.”
Whenever it happens, he hopes it’ll be after the birth of his first child. His wife is expecting their son to arrive around March 18, he said.
“I can’t wait,” Robert said. “I’m just glad I get to be home for it.”