FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — Fairfield Police Officer Jim Wiltsie of Stratford was always a good kid. But his Marine Corps service made him the person he is today, he told the Daily Voice.
“The Marine Corps really set the foundation for my character as far as leadership, and I was able to take that with me the rest of my life,” Wiltsie said.
After serving in the Marines Corps and the Marine Corps Reserves, he took away an appreciation for others who serve the country in the armed forces.
“You end up valuing service to yourself and your country, learning how to give more of yourself knowing that people less fortunate than you need help,” Wiltsie said.
Although residents across Fairfield County will be recognizing veterans on this Memorial Day, Wiltsie hopes that residents take away an awareness for those who made sacrifices to serve their country.
“Our communities need to recognize veterans not just one day a year but every day,” Wiltsie said. He also encourages everyday citizens to go beyond just thanking a veteran — he suggested getting to know a veteran or helping one find a job.
Wiltsie joined the Marines after high school. He began his service as an automotive diesel mechanic with the 3rd Battalion of the 11th Marines.
Shortly after checking into his first duty station at Twentynine Palms, Calif., he was deployed with his unit to Mogadishu, Somalia, to participate in Operation Restore Hope. He then was redeployed to Okinawa, Japan.
Upon earning the rank of E-4, Wiltsie became a primary marksmanship instructor for the remainder of his four years of active duty.
After an honorable discharge as an E-5 sergeant, he returned to civilian life as a student at Southern Connecticut State University. But he missed the service, so he joined the Marine Corps Reserves unit in New Haven.
Speaking to the Daily Voice on the 240th birthday of the Marines, he said the branch is a unique group of servicemen who serve the country by land, air and sea.
“They’re hard-core devil dogs,” Wiltsie said. “They’re basically the world’s 9-1-1 force.”
A lifelong resident of Stratford, Wiltsie continues to serve the public today as a decorated member of the Fairfield Police Department's Marine Unit.