By Melissa Buckley, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Aug. 23, 2023)— After watching his sister transition from civilian to Soldier, Pvt. Walter Sollet said he wanted to, “be all I could be, too” — he just never expected to attend Army Basic Combat Training while his sister serves as a drill sergeant less than a mile away on the same installation.
Sollet is going through BCT with Company B, 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment. His sister, Staff Sgt. Wendy Kelley, is a drill sergeant with Company D, 31st Engineer Battalion.
The siblings were born in Cuba, five years apart, but now call Miami their hometown.
“He is so special to me. I have always tried to be a good example for him,” Kelley said.
Sollet said growing up, his sister took care of him a lot, and he has looked up to her for as long as he can remember.
“I love my sister. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her,” he said. “My sister has always taught me, if I want something, I have to work for it. In high school, she joined the U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and she would take me to those events with her. Over the years, I have watched her go so many places and do so many things that I would like to do, too. I want the opportunities the Army has given her for myself.”
He said the difference he noticed in his sister, when she came home from BCT, impressed him.
“She was professional and had so much poise,” Sollet said.
The drill sergeant said she is proud her little brother wants to be a Soldier because of her.
“I love being a 12B Combat Engineer, but I like that he picked 12R Interior Electrician, because it’s going to be a good fit for him and will set him up for a great future,” Kelley said.
Sollet said since arriving on post, it feels weird to know he is so geographically close to his sister, but so far from her at the same time.
“I haven’t seen her. I feel like she is watching me though. I am always on my best behavior. I don’t want to let her down,” Sollet said.
Kelley said she hasn’t seen or checked on her brother for a good reason.
“I have stayed away because I want him to have his own experience,” Kelley said.
Sollet is doing just that. With three weeks left of his 10-week BCT, he said he is certain he chose the right path for his future.
“My parents wanted me to get a loan, stay at home and go to school, but I wanted to break out of the safety of my shell and be better. This was it for me. I really think I am becoming the best me I can be here,” Sollet said. “I feel like I am ready to serve when I am called, any time, day or night. I feel way more confident in my ability to complete any task thrown at me.”
Sollet hasn’t seen his sister since January, but she did get to watch him graduate high school through video chat while here.
“I was sad because I couldn’t be there, but he knew I was supporting him,” Kelley said.
She is hoping to make it to his next ceremony — when he graduates BCT next month.
“I am trying to go to his graduation ceremony. It’s a busy week because we have graduation, too,” Kelley said. “My leadership is being very supportive and trying to allow me to be there for him.”
After graduation, Sollet will spend seven more weeks here, attending advanced individual training for his military occupational specialty.
About Fort Leonard Wood
Fort Leonard Wood is a thriving and prosperous installation that has evolved from a small basic training post 80 years ago to a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains nearly 80,000 military and civilians each year.
Fort Leonard Wood is home to the U.S Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and three U.S. Army schools: the U.S. Army Engineer School; U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School; and the U.S. Army Military Police School. In addition to training engineer, CBRN and military police specialties for the Army, Fort Leonard Wood also provides gender-integrated in-processing and Basic Combat Training for new Soldiers.
Fort Leonard Wood also hosts and trains with the largest Marine Corps Detachment and Air Force Squadron on any Army installation as well as a large Navy construction detachment.
More information about Fort Leonard Wood is at: https://home.army.mil/wood/index.php/about/mission