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Soldiers with Sanibel ties are home for the holidays

By Staff | Dec 16, 2009

Since the beginning of December, Debi Lipps has been sleeping a little better at night.

That’s because her son, Thomas Lipps, finally returned to the United States following a year-long tour of duty in Iraq. The 23-year-old former resident of Sanibel is a soldier in the United States Army.

“It’s a big relief to have him out of that country,” said Debi Lipps, who previously worked for 14 years as a recording secretary for the City of Sanibel’s Planning Department. “I’ve been sleeping better at night.”

However, she isn’t completely out of the woods when worrying about a family member. Her stepson, Nate McCain, is an active duty member of the United States Marines, currently stationed in San Diego, Calif.

“A lot of Marines are being called up and sent to Afghanistan,” she said. “So now my worry has sort of shifted from one to the other.”

According to Lipps, whose husband Grant is the garage supervisor for the City of Sanibel’s Department of Public Works, both her son and stepson had long sought a career in the U.S. Armed Forces.

“Thomas knew he wanted to be a soldier since he was 5 years old,” she said, noting that after he graduated from North Fort Myers High School he took a year off before enlisting.

After seeing his step-brother join the Army three years ago, Nate began speaking about a military career with a friend of his who was a recruiter for the U.S. Marine Corps in Gainesville, Fla. McCain, 28, who graduated from Cypress Lake High School’s Center for the Performing Arts, was told that his military occupational specialty could be in music.

“He’s a drummer,” said Lipps, who explained that her stepson enlisted a year and a half ago. “In fact, he just completed the Toys For Tots Tour in Arizona.”

Thomas, who attended The Sanibel School from kindergarten through sixth grade, returned to Fort Bragg in North Carolina on Dec. 4. Lipps is hoping that he and his wife, Natalie, will join them at her home in Cape Coral for a thankful and festive holiday meal. A Christmas invitation has also been extended to Nate and his wife, Ashley.

“Last year, I didn’t have either one of them at home for the holidays, which felt sort of strange,” she said. “Now I’ll have one in town, so to be able to give him a Christmas gift in person is wonderful. Like I said, last year it was very quiet… odd… lonesome.”

Lipps also said that she couldn’t be any prouder of these two young men, and hopes that other island families with sons and daughters serving in the military can be together again very soon, if not in time for the holidays.

“Both of my sons have a very strong faith,” she added. “I know that however it turns out for them that they’ll be happy to have served their country.”