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Family gets big surprise during Mesa shopping spree

MESA, Ariz. — It was a day to remember for one Valley family on Wednesday.

What was supposed to be a day of shopping and a special lunch turned out to be so much more.

Michelle Phillips was excited to be at the Bass Pro Shops store in Mesa. She was told that her sister-in-law had won a contest at Country Thunder, the country music festival in Florence, Ariz., and that a shopping spree at the store was part of the prize.

“They set it up that she won this thing at Bass Pro (Shops), and I got to come as her guest to watch it happen,” Phillips said.

Phillips’ entire family was invited, and as part of the “contest,” they would get to have lunch with a surprise celebrity.

Some members of the family thought it might be a country music star, since the prize was won at Country Thunder. Others thought it would be comedian and actor Tim Allen, based on an Internet search that told them Allen was recently in the Phoenix area and is a spokesman for Bass Pro Shops.

“I was voting for ‘Duck Dynasty,'” said Phillips. “When they said it would be a celebrity guest at Bass Pro (Shops), that’s who I was voting for was anybody from the ‘Duck Dynasty’ cast.”

Mesa Mayor Alex Mintor and City Councilman David Luna had the honor of revealing the “celebrity.”

When the time came, it was no movie, music or TV star that stepped out when Luna opened the door. Instead, it was Phillips’ husband, U.S. Navy Second Class Petty Officer Shawn Phillips, home after serving eight years in the military.

Phillips served in various places.

“I’ve been to Afghanistan, Bahrain, Japan, Maryland,” he said.

He’s spent the past two and a half years in Washington state, where Michelle has been able to visit him. But his three kids — James, Sophie and Charlotte — haven’t seen their dad for several months. Now, he’s home for good.

“I am so happy to be home,” Phillips said. “I’ve missed everybody here — my wife, my kids. Obviously, they’ve missed me a little bit, too.”

His 8-year-old son James can vouch for that.

“He’s been gone a long time,” he said.

The surprise was all set up by Michelle’s sister-in-law, after she learned Phillips was leaving the military.

Phillips’ mom, Liz Calhoon, was in shock and crying after the surprise.

“I am in my seat and the councilman opens the door, and…there’s my son!” she said. “I am so pleased that he is home. We’re so proud of my son.”

Phillips plans to go back to school and pursue a law enforcement career, but first, he wants some home cooking, while James wants some time with his dad.

“I want to go fishing,” he said. “My dad has a little fishing boat.”

As for Phillips wife, it doesn’t look like she is too disappointed that she didn’t get to meet any of the Robertson family from “Duck Dynasty.”

And when asked who was better, Willie Robertson or her husband?

“Oh, my husband!” she laughed.