Star Prairie soldier recovering
When Annette Sislo's phone rang on July 26, she didn't recognize the phone number but something in her heart told her to answer it.
On the other end were officials from the U.S. Army. They were calling to tell her Sgt. Josh Sislo, her 22-year-old son, had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, severely injuring his lower body.
"They said he's been injured but he's OK," she said. "I knew it couldn't have been good news, but they weren't at my door, so that was a blessing."
Sislo, a Star Prairie native, was serving his second tour in Afghanistan. He had only been deployed for a month. He was awarded a Purple Heart, the decorating given to those injured or killed in combat, while in Afghanistan.
Annette Sislo said she wasn't too keen on Josh Sislo joining the Army, but she knew he would join with or without her support.
It didn't take Sislo long to climb to the rank of sergeant.
"There aren't too many 22-year-old sergeants out there," Annette Sislo said.
When he was deployed the second time, Annette Sislo said she knew he was going to Afghanistan, but she wasn't told he had been deployed to one of the most dangerous places in the country.
"I had no idea he was going to an area so severe. They were right in the middle of it," she said. "He said it was like an action movie - and he was on the wrong side."
On July 24, Sislo led his men into the field to help recover the bodies of fallen soldiers.
"They were hit hard and eventually ran out of (ammunition)," Annette said.
At one point Sislo was assisting one of his soldiers when an RPG hit.
"His boys had the tourniquet on him before he even hit the ground," Annette Sislo said. "They're that well trained. He probably wouldn't have survived without it."
Annette Sislo said getting Josh Sislo out of harm's way was a challenging task.
"They were shot at all the way to the truck," she said. "At one point Josh had to get off the gurney to crawl down a ravine before getting back on the gurney."
After undergoing surgeries in Afghanistan and Germany, Sislo was eventually transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
"We thought they were going to keep him in Germany (where he's stationed)," Annette Sislo said. "We were packed and ready to go."
Annette Sislo said she spent about a month in Washington, D.C. before returning to Star Prairie. Josh Sislo's wife, Kristen Kunze, also a Star Prairie native, is still with him at the hospital.
Annette Sislo said despite the injuries and pain Josh Sislo is experiencing, he indicated the first thing he wants to do when he gets better is go back to Afghanistan to be with his soldiers.
"Those are his boys," she said. "They're his family."
Annette Sislo said she's thankful for the support she's received from the Army.
"They're with you every step of the way," she said. "They were updating me every two or three hours."
Since being back in the United States, Josh Sislo has had several visitors, including President Barack Obama, at Walter Reed.
"He's been visited by the president, senators, comedians, baseball players... but his favorite visits are from the dogs," Annette Sislo said with a laugh. "He loves animals."
Walter Reed "employs" several therapy dogs that make daily rounds at the hospital.
It's unclear how long Josh Sislo will be hospitalized. Two months after the incident, he still has no use of his left leg.
Josh Sislo is a 2008 graduate of New Richmond High School. He is the son of Annette Sislo, of Star Prairie, and Raymond Sislo of Deer Park. He completed basic combat training at Fort Knox, Ky.
To keep up with Josh Sislo, visit Facebook.com and seach "Family, Friends, & Fans For Josh Sislo."