Army Veteran Finds Healing in Helping Others
Today we introduce you to U.S. Army Reserve Sergeant First Class (Ret.) Paul Kelly, who’s had a unique military career. Post-retirement, he has devoted his time and talents to multiple volunteer efforts—all to benefit his fellow Veterans.
Paul Kelly was always intrigued by the military; his father was a U.S. Marine, and his uncles served, too. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1979 and spent four years on active duty as an infantry solider in Northern Germany before becoming an electrician for the federal government, where he built a 30-year career.
But after the events of 9/11, Paul was compelled to re-enlist—20 years after his original service—only, this time in the U.S. Army Reserves, where he served as a construction engineer and a basic electricity instructor. During that time, he completed a one-year deployment to Iraq in 2003 and three deployments to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2012, where he worked as a construction engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers before retiring in 2015.
It was during his last deployment that Paul was injured in the line of duty. He shared, “I got the Purple Heart … it’s not the kind of award you want, but I’m honored to have received it.”
A family man at heart, after retiring from his 30-year electrician career in 2018, Paul enjoyed spending more time with his wife, Annie, two grown children and his three grandchildren. He also dove into volunteer efforts, including serving as a mentor with Wounded Warrior Project’s (WWP) Mentor Program; founding the Poolesville Military Support Group; acting as Veteran Liaison with Frederick County Hospice; and helping to train service dogs through Warrior Canine Connection’s Mission Based Trauma Recovery (MBTR) training program.
Paul works closely with Wounded Warrior Project’s peer support group. The group meets monthly to talk amongst each other, and they also participate in other activities including indoor sky diving, axe throwing, arcades, and WCC’s Project Odyssey.
“It’s a good bunch of guys, we share things that work for us in a comfortable setting, and it’s a great bonding experience,” said Paul. “We all miss the camaraderie the military provided.”
He also volunteers with WCC. In fact, what started as his volunteer participation in its eight-week Mission Based Trauma Recovery (MBTR) training program, has long since led to him being a regular volunteer fixture at WCC’s Healing Quarters at both its Boyds and Frederick, Maryland, locations.
“I learned about WCC in the newspaper, so I called them six months before I retired to see if I could help them out,” said Paul. “I wanted to help them, and the program ended up being therapy for me. What I get out of it is just phenomenal, like magic healing,” said Paul.
Paul says volunteering for nonprofit organizations that support Veterans, including WCC and Wounded Warrior Project, brings him purpose, while helping him at the same time. He didn’t anticipate it, but by helping others, has helped him. “Both organizations are wonderful, and both have helped me out a lot,” says Paul. “And I’m happy to give back to them because they’ve done so much for me.”
In fact, working with WCC’s service dogs in training spurred Paul to enroll in an online course to become a certified, professional dog trainer. He says he wants to specialize in training service dogs and is actively visiting seniors and Veterans with his own dog, Luke, a 5-year-old Golden Retriever, who is a therapy dog.