Weeks after winning election to the state House from Delaware County, 26-year-old Nick Miccarelli said yesterday that he will be sent to Iraq as a soldier in the Pennsylvania National Guard.
Miccarelli, a Republican from Ridley Park, could be away for up to half of his two-year term in the House, which will begin officially with his swearing-in Jan. 6.
A staff sergeant and Iraq combat veteran, Miccarelli will be deployed as a machine-gunner on a Chinook helicopter with the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade, based at Fort Indiantown Gap. Chinooks transport soldiers and supplies in Iraq.
Miccarelli said yesterday that he will be mobilized late next month or in early February for several weeks of Stateside training. He will go to Iraq in April. He is expected to return in early 2010.
He said he did not know when he was running for office this fall that he would be called up.
"There's always the risk of being deployed in the National Guard," he said, "but I had not received orders of any sort."
Both Miccarelli and a spokesman for House Republicans said that members of Miccarelli's staff - five full-timers and 23 part-timers - will take care of his constituents' needs while he is gone.
"He's already made arrangements for that to continue, to assure that people who have issues or problems will be served," said the spokesman, Steve Miskin. "The only thing that will not be happening is that the representative will not be voting on the floor."
Miccarelli has been chief of staff to State Rep. Ron Raymond, who did not seek reelection. Miccarelli said that, while he is away, he will donate a "significant" portion of his $76,000 annual House salary to charities.
Several state legislators who serve in the Guard or Reserve have been called up since 9/11. Rep. Scott Perry, a two-year House Republican from York County - and a lieutenant colonel in the Guard - also will be deployed to Iraq early next year.
Democrat John DeFrancisco, defeated by Miccarelli in the 162d House District, said he admired Miccarelli's service to his country and wished him "nothing but health and safety."
But DeFrancisco, 58, who works at the Boeing plant in Delaware County that makes Chinooks, said, "I think a loss for a year will definitely hurt this district, with the job scene the way it is, and property taxes."
"I would like to say there maybe should be another election or have someone fill in, in the interim," he said.
Miccarelli, a University of Pennsylvania graduate who joined the Guard in high school, served in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006, when two soldiers close to him were killed. He also served with peacekeepers in Kosovo.