CIRCLEVILLE - In nearly two years at the Pickaway County Sheriff's Office, Deputy Joshua Watts has made some friends. But even Watts didn't realize how good those friends were until a deployment with the Army Reserves drew him away from his young family here at home.
Watts, a Specialist E4 with the U.S. Army Reserves serving as Military Police at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, recently returned to Circleville for the birth of his second child on March 14. During his deployment, Watts said his sheriff's office co-workers have treated his wife, Samantha, and 5-year-old son, Hunter, like family.
It is that extended family, Watts said, that makes it easier for his young son to stay connected to his dad when he has to be away to fulfill his service obligations through the Army Reserves.
"I really think it helps him," Watts said. "He's very interested in what I do, and we're all a big family at the office. Staying close to those deputies helps keep him from missing me so much, and they kind of step into that father role for me when I can't."
Watts is originally from the Ashville area, but Samantha is fairly new to Pickaway County. She said her husband wanted her to get to know a few people he worked with so they could help keep an eye out for her and the kids during his deployment.
"He had me go get some paperwork or something for him one day, and it just started rolling that we started going about once a week and seeing everybody," Samantha said. "They've been awesome. They help with Hunter and ask how Joshua is doing. They were very interested in my pregnancy, too, wanting updates and all of that. They've been wonderful."
She said one of the ladies from the sheriff's office even invited them to Thanksgiving dinner at her home last year.
"It was very nice to spend some time with them and their family," Samantha said. "They have really taken us in. It's been awesome."
Watts said Samantha was about four months pregnant when he learned he was being deployed. He found out right before he came home that he would be back in time for the birth of his newest son, Wyatt.
"I got home about midnight on March 13, and she was already in the hospital waiting on me," he said. "I went straight from the airport to the hospital, and he was born at 8:30 p.m. March 14."
This isn't the first time Samantha has dealt with a pregnancy while her husband was serving his country, she said. Hunter was born while Watts was at drill.
He also was deployed to Cuba once before in 2012.
"We've been through it before, and Hunter did fine, but this one was so much different," Samantha said. "Hunter was older, so he understands more that daddy's gone, and with me being pregnant, he didn't have mommy to play with him like he did before. It was very difficult."
The support they received from the sheriff's office employees, she said, really has helped Hunter through that difficult time.
"I don't know how to explain it," she said. "It kind of reminds him of daddy, makes him feel a little bit closer. And he's got that male figure in his life, he's got somebody. They're all there for him."
Sheriff Robert Radcliff said he is pleased his deputies and staff have been able to provide that support for Watts and his family.
"We are so proud of him for his service to the country, and we know how difficult that is for a family," Radcliff said. "He's part of our family, and we want to be there for him and support his loved ones while he's gone. It's a little thing we can all do to make sure his family has people looking out for them while he's protecting the rest of us."
Watts said he believes with all the close contact Hunter has had with his fellow deputies, he will probably pursue a law enforcement career himself when he is older.
"He's planning on being a deputy," Watts said. "That's all he talks about. That, and being a Ninja Turtle."