MU law student Paul Wade has served his country through the U.S. military for much of his life. This summer, he was recognized for his service, leadership and impact on the community when he was awarded the Pat Tillman Foundation scholarship, one of the most prestigious scholarships for veterans.
Wade first enlisted in 2003 after graduating from Truman State University with a bachelor’s in history. Wanting to serve his country in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and the invasion of Iraq, he decided to enlist in the Army.
“I was probably going to enlist anyway, but when we invaded Iraq, there was obviously something to do for our country,” he said.
At the time, he worked at Wal-Mart and had applied to a management program at the company but was told that few people would be accepted due to economic conditions. The day after he enlisted, he was informed that he had been recommended for the program.
“I just looked at [the human resources lady] and I was like, ‘You should have told me that yesterday because I’m in the Army now, so there’s not much I can do,’” he said.
He initially enlisted as a specialist in the infantry.
“When you first get there, it’s just like really low-level work,” he said. “I joke because you know I was manager of the Wal-Mart, so I used to be in charge of the guys who cleaned the bathrooms, then when I joined the Army, I was the guy who cleaned the bathrooms.”
However, he quickly rose to positions of leadership. During his first military tour, he was a squad leader supervising two poll sites in the first Iraqi elections. A year later, he was deployed again as a truck commander in a quick response force that responded to trouble on the east side of Afghanistan.
He then applied for officer candidate school and was trained as a lieutenant in the U.S. He returned to Afghanistan once more as an officer and worked to improve the training of the Afghan National Police in areas such as vehicle and weapons proficiency. In total, he served on active duty for just under 12 years.
Wade said his time spent overseas helped him gain a deeper understanding of other cultures.
“When you deal with cultures of different people and you see what they value and how they value it and why they value it, I don’t want to say it makes you question what you value, but it gives you a more detachment of how the culture works, and it makes you kind of see the common humanity between people,” he said.
He earned a master’s degree in international business while in the army and is now enrolled in the MU School of Law. His long-term plan is to combine knowledge of law and business along with the cultural understanding he gained while deployed to bring more businesses to poorer countries and help include them in the global economy. His experiences in Afghanistan allowed him to see how much of a difference business and infrastructure can make in developing countries.
“When people can actually get employed and life is worth living, you start getting people going to school, you do all these different things, the violence goes down across the board,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Wade currently uses his knowledge of the law to help fellow veterans through the MU School of Law Veterans Clinic, which aids veterans and their families in securing disability benefits. He also volunteers with Team Red, White and Blue, an organization that focuses on creating connections between veterans and the community.
“I think part of the thing that happens is when people come back, they don’t get connected with the community,” he said. “And I’ve seen it happen, where when you get a lot of community members and you get veterans both together and you do that shared hardship thing, you run a 5K, 10K … You have those shared hardship experiences, and that brings you closer together.”
Wade was awarded the Pat Tillman Foundation scholarship, which was given to only 60 students in 2017, in June. Robert Ross, director of the MU Veterans Center, encouraged Wade to apply for the scholarship. He believes that Wade’s ideas for impacting the world after he graduates helped his application stand out.
“They’re looking for people who have ideas that are achievable,” Ross said. “They are not looking for someone to say, ‘Well, I got this medal. I got that medal. I was named the soldier of the year.’ They want to know what you are going to do with your background, your training, to move the needle forward on solving some of the issues in the world.”
Wade continues to serve his country through participation in the Missouri National Guard and hopes to join the JAG Corps, the legal branch of the military, after he graduates from law school.
Edited by Olivia Garrett | firstname.lastname@example.org