PIKE TOWNSHIP - They say once is never enough. Josh Sitas would probably agree.
The 32-year-old Herrickville man has already served his country overseas. Now he's going again. What's more, this trip is part of his second stint in the service - with his two enlistments even being in different branches.
Josh "seems to have that calling to defend his country," his dad, Bill Sitas of Stevensville, remarks.
VFW Post 6824, near Rome, and its auxiliary recently held a deployment party for Josh, a father of four who's headed for Afghanistan. They presented the young Army sergeant several gifts and served him, his family and friends a meal.
"I've always been drawn to the service," Josh explains.
He graduated from Wyalusing High School in 2000. That same year he went into the Navy, serving aboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), based in Bremerton, Wash. An electrician, Josh reached the rank of petty officer.
Josh was in the Navy on Sept. 11, 2001. He saw television coverage of the terror attacks and soon after the ship, deployed in the western Pacific, picked up speed and chugged toward the Middle East. Planes from the Vinson dropped the first bombs on Afghanistan.
"We were proud of it," Josh says of his crew's involvement in that operation.
Josh and Jen, formerly Jen Coon of Wysox, married in 2002. His enlistment ended in 2004, and they focused on home and starting a family. Today, Josh works for Penelec and the couple have four young children, Gabby, 7; Jack, 5; Charlotte, 3; and Cash, 1.
But something was calling him back to the service. Maybe it was nostalgia - "The longer I stayed away from it the better I remembered it," he says.
So in 2009, Josh joined the Army Reserve. "I was able to keep my rank" - and wouldn't need as much schooling - he explains about his leap from Navy to Army. (Yes, he gets some kidding over it.) Today, Josh is a sergeant with the 479th Engineering Battalion.
For a long time he spent the usual two weeks a year with the Reserves, and the rest of the time at home. But then came the news: He was shipping out.
"I wasn't happy," he admits. "It's not where I want to be this year."
But, he adds, he'll make the best of it. And Jen supports him 100 percent, he says.
He leaves Monday for Ft. Dix, N.J., to start the mobilization. In early May, the engineer will head to Kandahar, Afghanistan, spending nine months there in combat support. He'll be away about a year all together.
"The hard part's leaving," he confesses. But, after the training phase, he expects it will get easier.
Jen says it will be a difficult time. But ... they'll "make it work."
She tries not to think about the danger of his job, she adds. "I don't watch the news."
At the party, held this past Wednesday, state Rep. Tina Pickett presented Josh a House of Representatives certificate, and VFW 6824 Auxiliary President Diane Elliott gave him a certificate and cap. District 14 VFW Auxiliary President Wendi Hennemann gave him a thank-you coin, and District 14 Commander Roy Schrimp offered brief remarks.
According to Diane, Josh is a VFW member and Jen's joining the auxiliary.
"I'm proud," Josh says of his service. "It's not something everybody can do. I enjoy doing it."
"It's hard to send anybody off like that," his dad, Bill, says.
But he adds: "I'm proud of him."