Kelley Josten, 19, returns today to Cherry Point, N.C., where he is stationed as a lance corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps.
He joined the military through the delayed entry program when he was 17, when war seemed far away from America and its citizens.
But now that it is almost certain the United States will go to battle, he's ready.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit scared," he said. "But this is my job. This is what I'm trained for."
One day after coming home to Carson City on leave, terror struck the United States. Josten and his parents knew he would likely be called upon in the Marine Corps to provide air support for ground and other troops.
"It's not something I would like to happen, but it's his job," said his mother, Pat Josten. "I couldn't think of anyone better to be out there protecting (me)."
His father said people are always asking how he feels about having a son serving in the armed forces.
"I don't think anybody's really pumped about going over there or sending somebody over there, but I know this is what he's decided to do," Dave Josten said. "He'll do it."
As a junior at Carson High School, Josten was not sure what he wanted to do once he graduated. Out of the blue, he got a call from a friend, Joe Covington, who was enlisting in the military.
Covington urged Josten to come to the recruiting office, and he did. He enlisted on Sept. 3, 1999. On July 31, 2000 - a little over a month after graduating from high school - Josten went to boot camp.
"I liked it," he said. "You learned a lot even though it was real hard. It's hard mentally more than it is physically. Anybody can go to boot camp and if they're in any kind of shape they'll make it physically. But if they have the wrong attitude, they'll never make it. It's all about being mentally tough and mentally prepared."
Josten is not the first in his family to call himself a Marine.
Above the fireplace in the Jostens' Carson City home is a photograph of Josten dressed in uniform. Next to it is a photograph of his maternal grandfather, LeRoy Kelley, who fought in the battle at Iwo Jima, also in Marine uniform.
And he may not be the last Marine in the family. Both of his younger brothers, Nick, 17, and Jon, 13, are considering enlisting.
"I tell them to go for it," Josten said. "I think everybody - at least the guys - should go in for two years. You learn so much and you serve your country. It makes a man out of you real quick."
Josten signed up for four years and may make a career out of it.
"If it stays the way it's going now, I'll stay in for 20 years," he said. "I like the way of life. I like the structure and I like the respect I get."