“I used to think that being wounded in Iraq was the worst thing that could ever happen to me,” says Petaluman Jeremiah Pauley, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and a Purple Heart recipient. “But it’s made me the man I am today.”
The road to wellness was torturous for Pauley. After suffering a devastating wound in the war, Pauley endured a number of surgeries and several months of therapy, before finding himself spiraling down into what he calls, “a pretty dark place.” It lasted until 2011, when Pauley was invited to participate in “Soldier Ride,” in Phoenix, Arizona, an event co-hosted by The Wounded Warrior Project.
It was here that Pauley began to find his way. The event, he says, kicked off a lot of things for him.
“I learned that I was not alone,” he says, “and that showed me that I was empowered. I began to make changes in my life, to not let my wound define me.”
Pauley changed his diet and re-started his exercise regimen.
“I lost 50 pounds in a month,” he says. “I was motivated. I wanted to be a better father, a better human. I wanted to change my life for the better.”
He also was moved to begin speaking, making appearances on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Project, as a way of giving back for the help he received there. Noting that he draws inspiration from the example set by his late father, Pauley says, “Service is important to me. My father taught me if you’re ever in a position to help someone, you should do it, and I try to teach this to my children as well. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it; he was that kind of person.”
Regarding his work with Wounded Warriors, Pauley describes his role as simply raising awareness of the non-profit organization.
“Wounded Warrior Project is a nonprofit organization that supports post-9/11 veterans and their family members,” he explains. “We connect the wounded, their families, and their caregivers to peers, programs and communities. We serve by providing free mental and physical health and wellness programs, career and benefit counseling and lifetime support for the most severely injured.”
Pauley says he draws on his own experiences when speaking.
“Overcoming my own negativity,” he says, “believing that I couldn’t do things due to my physical wound, was the biggest challenge I had. But I learned by the example set by other Wounded Warriors that anything was possible.”
Describing himself as an extrovert, Pauley says he loves to go to new places and meet new people. He’d like to become a motivational speaker, and in his spare time, has been working on writing.
“I started writing about five years ago and I really like it because it helps me clear my head,” he says, adding that he is always passionate about what he does, and finds it hugely rewarding.
Says Pauley, “When I talk to a fellow warrior or family, they usually tell me afterwards, ‘Because of you, I don’t want to give up and quit.’ ”
Occupation: Spokesperson for Wounded Warrior Project
Family: Wife Crystal, plus daughter Grace, 10, and son Jacob, 7.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in management from the University of Phoenix.
Hometown: Massillon, Ohio; been in Petaluma four-and-a-half years.
Community service: Team dad for any sport my kids are into.
Awards: In 2015, he received the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for National and Community Service, from President Barack Obama, for contributions to the Wounded Warrior Project. Awarded the Purple Heart in 2006.
Favorite book: “Unbroken,” by Laura Hillenbrand.
Hobbies: Goes to the park with his kids, plays golf and exercises. He also does crossfit. “It’s my favorite,” he says.
Favorite Petaluma-area hangout: Seared.