MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- Having been around the Marine Corps since birth, the daughter of a sergeant major knew at a young age she would follow in his footsteps and earn the coveted title of Marine.
When Pfc. Jilliane Waltz graduated high school in 2000, it was time to decide what to do with her life. But instead of shipping off to boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., she attended college for two years. She spent one year at East Carolina University, N.C., and one year at Darton College in Albany, Ga., with her eye on a teaching career.
After attending college for two years, Waltz decided she needed a break from school and that it was time to become one of the few and the proud. At 20, Waltz was seeking her independence and went to the recruiter's office alone, without the guidance of her dad, a 30-year veteran of the Corps. Joining the Marine Corps was her decision and something she wanted to do on her own. She embarked on her own journey and didn't want others to think her dad used his seniority to help.
"I wanted to do this on my own; to be able to say I can do it on my own," said Waltz. "My parents paid for me to go to college, and I felt it was time to do something without their help."
When she first told her father she was joining the Marine Corps he didn't really believe her, she said. Her father, Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Waltz, MCLB Albany sergeant major, was proud of her decision to join the Corps, but he didn't take her under his wing and "show her the ropes" before boot camp. He wanted her to learn things on her own, the way he had Ð the hard way.
"I didn't have that much influence on what decisions she made," said Waltz. "This was something that she did on her own, and I think that's better than being forced or pushed in a certain direction."
Like any good father tries to do, Waltz never took his work home with him, so his daughter didn't see much of him in uniform during her childhood. But his pride in the Corps was always evident, and his daughter realized that being a Marine was something special.
"I saw the way civilians would speak with my dad and react to him," said Waltz. "Even in civilian clothes he looked like a Marine, and in a way I wanted that commanding respect."
Waltz has always felt a special father/daughter bond, but now that she wears the Eagle, Globe and Anchor, she feels that bond has become stronger.
"I can tell him a story about boot camp and he'll start laughing because he can remember when he did that, or had it done to him," she said. "Even though I've only been in for three months, we share a common ground that we can both relate to."
At a young age, she showed interest in the Marine Corps.
"When she was maybe 8 or 9 she would go with me on Sundays when I taught drill to midshipmen," said Waltz. "She would get a stick or whatever she could find and march around at the end of the formation and try to perform manual arms."
Waltz has always sensed, and in a way hoped, his daughter would join the Corps, he said. Like any good parent he wants his children to be happy and successful in whatever they decide to do. He thinks that joining the Corps was the right thing for his daughter to do, at this point in her life.
"College just wasn't for her right now," said Waltz. "Joining the Corps was the right thing for her to do because I know it will give her some direction in life."
The young Marine has just begun her "new life," and she said it is too early for her to say if she will stay in for the long haul like her father. Right now she has a five-year contract with the Marine Corps. Once she finishes Marine Combat Training, she will go to Pensacola, Fla., where she will train for one year to become an aviation mechanic.
The proud father has served 30 years and will soon retire, leaving the active duty ranks of the Marine Corps. But an old and wise Waltz leaves the Corps in the hands of a younger and eager-to-learn Waltz, who looks to the future with pride.