It’s been said that we should beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us.

While that may be true, within us, too, lies our greatest strength.

At the age of 18, Paul joined the Army. And over 25 years later in 2014, after serving both active duty and in a civilian capacity, he was forced to walk off away from the only thing he ever knew or loved for so long. 

“I left Kandahar, Afghanistan with what was diagnosed as debilitating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” Paul said. “Little did I know that my life would change forever. And a new and even harder journey to find the ‘new me’ would be the most challenging mission of my life.”

Until that point, Paul’s world revolved around one mission: to either be a soldier or help soldiers. What he didn’t realize at the time was the immense toll that he was under both mentally and physically. It was not until he could no longer do what he loved that he was forced to come to terms with the greatest enemy he ever faced: the enemy within. 

“PTSD does not only affect the individual, it effects the entire family,” Paul said. “In 2017, my ex-wife passed away unexpectedly. My youngest son, Michael, came to live with me full-time. Just a year later, he lost his grandmother. The adjustment to both of our lives was huge. In late 2017, he started watching the World’s Strongest Man and became a huge fan of Brian Shaw and many others. It was something I was very excited about because it gave him an outlet to channel his energy.”

Ironically, what was an outlet for his son would also become a life-saver for Paul himself. 

“This year, my son told me the World’s Strongest Man competition was headed to Florida not far from where we live,” he said. “So we went. To say that I was completely blown away by the competitors’ kindness towards the fans is an understatement. They were some of the most amazing and genuine people I have ever met.”

At the competition, Paul and his son noticed several of the competitors and fans wearing APEMAN gear. One shirt in particular caught his eye: SUFFERING UNLEASHES GREATNESS. 

“The phrase resonated with me after all I had been through over the years,” Paul said. “What my son, Michael, didn’t know was that I had been struggling and not doing so well lately with my internal battle with PTSD and other medical conditions. Over Father’s Day weekend, he ordered me the shirt I had seen. When it came in the mail, there were several cards included. The one entitled PERSEVERE brought me to tears – that is not something easily done. I had all but given up hope. But that card and those words reminded me that life is about so much more.”

Over the past few years, Paul has done just about everything you could dream of to work through his challenges such as becoming a yoga instructor, volunteering at a local veterans’ ranch, coaching little league, etc. But the side most people never see is the internal pain and strife that every-day-life takes on him.  

“Those few words on that card today have reignited and reminded me that I have something left to give,” he said. “And that I have many missions left ahead of me. Giving up is not an option. There will always be mountains in life. But you give me hope that I can pick myself up and dust myself off and start over even when I feel at my lowest.”