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Bravo Company’s band of brothers

James Hagengruber Correspondent

Robert Shipp and his twin, Matthew, were raised in a tightly knit family in a house overlooking Hauser Lake, Idaho. They have a younger brother, CJ, 15, who is a sophomore at Lakeland Senior High School in Rathdrum. Their big sister, Lacey, 23, helps her parents, Dennis and Leslee, run the family business, The Hauser Lake Resort. Lacey is also a senior at Lewis-Clark State College.

In late October, two weeks before deploying, Robert married Dusty Smith, of Hayden, in a hastily arranged ceremony. Although the young Marine looks forward to reuniting with his twin, his new wife and his family, he has also found a new family within the 3rd Platoon of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. “Marines give the brotherhood nobody else has,” Robert said recently.

Here is a glimpse at some of Robert’s new brothers:

1st Lt. Austin Adams, of California, is executive officer of the Marines aboard the USS Germantown, including Robert’s platoon. Since enlisting in 2000, Adams has spent much of his time in the Marines deployed overseas. He estimates that he’s spent only half of his marriage with his wife — a fact he joked about in the four-year wedding anniversary card he sent back to California. “Best two years ever,” he wrote to her.

Lance Cpl. Roy Aeschlimann, 23, intends to return to Georgia to help his father build homes after completing his four-year contract with the Marines. He’s one of the biggest and most muscular in the platoon, a fact he attributes to pumping iron to pass time. “I can only take watching movies or music for so long,” he said.

Lance Cpl. Harry Ho, 20, became a father Dec. 29. “I don’t miss anything big — just a lot of pooping and crying,” Ho said, when asked about being away from his new baby. “I’ll be there when he starts smiling.” Squadmates refer to Ho as the “perfect man” because he’s the only member of the platoon to never drink alcohol or use tobacco.

Lance Cpl. Bryan Jennings, 24, is among the oldest in the platoon. The Illinois resident left college halfway through to join the Marines. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said. Now, he’s considering going into law enforcement. Robert Shipp considers him the “older brother I don’t have.”

Cpl. Alan Maria, the 22-year-old leader of Robert’s squad, never planned on joining the Marines. He decided to enlist shortly after a close friend was killed early in the war as a Marine serving in Ramadi, Iraq. Almost exactly a year after enlisting, Maria, from Texas, found himself in combat in Ramadi and was at the scene when his company commander was killed by a sniper.

Navy Corpsman Michael McFarland, of Old Town, Idaho, is responsible for the medical welfare of the entire company of Marines aboard the USS Germantown. As a corpsman, he serves beside the Marines, even in combat.

Lance Cpl. Daniel Means, 20, of Connecticut, was born in Canada and raised in New England. After finishing his service, Means hopes to go into law enforcement. Although Robert Shipp is a self-proclaimed Dixie-flag-carrying “Idaho redneck,” he considers Means, of African-American heritage, one of his closest friends.

Lance Cpl. Brian Neal, 20, of Priest River, Idaho, serves in the same platoon as Shipp but in a different squad. The two are bunkmates and are among the only men in the platoon who are married.

Lance Cpl. Lionel Ortiz, 22, of Chicago, is one of the few in the platoon to have experienced combat. Like Robert Shipp, Ortiz also has a brother serving in Iraq.

Lance Cpl. Travis Preciado, 20, of Oregon City, said he joined the Marines to serve his country and see new horizons. He didn’t have a strong desire to go to college. “I wanted to get away, to see something new, some place other than my hometown,” he said.

1st Lt. Mike Winchester, of Idaho Falls, enlisted Sept. 10, 2001. After serving in the enlisted ranks he went on to become an infantry officer. Winchester hopes to someday return to Idaho or Montana to pursue a career in agriculture or natural resources.

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