Who’s that bulldog? Navy father surprises daughter after 14 months overseas

May 7, 2021

When a group of Old Rochester Regional Junior High School students were brought outside Friday afternoon, there was some idle chatter, questioning what brought them outside.

Some questioned why there were cameras present, and teachers assured that it was just the Bulldog mascot here to recognize students for a year of hard work.

Nurse Linda Deveau, wielding a megaphone, called up eighth grader Kaylee Sitarz for a moment of special recognition.

That’s when the bulldog revealed himself to be Kaylee’s father, Brian Sitarz, a U.S. Navy 1st Class Officer who had been stationed overseas for 14 months.

“The feeling of being able to come home and see your family is indescribable,” Brian said.

Stationed in Djibouti, Brian said this was his third deployment, and “they get harder each time.”

Kaylee thought her dad was still in Virginia, waiting to be able to come home.

“I didn’t know he was gonna be home before a couple weeks,” she said.

Kaylee said seeing her dad was a total surprise, and she was “so happy.”

Deveau, who helped organize the reunion, said it was “fun,” and that staff at the junior high were a big help.

“Because we have great staff here, they were good when I reached out to them and just gave them instructions as far as what the plan was,” she said. “They were really good about keeping it quiet, and that the kids would get down here in a timely fashion.”

Before the reunion, some students questioned what was going on, but others were playing catch with footballs and handballs. Maybe it was the nice weather keeping students’ minds occupied.

“Isn’t that good?” Deveau said. “And it’s not too often we can have them in that mentality when they don’t know what’s about to happen.”

And it all came together for a perfectly executed surprise reunion.

“Amazing,” Brian said, “just the most amazing feeling.”