Someone You Should Know: Leading Sanford’s Military & Veteran Affairs

Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 5:28 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 5, 2023 at 9:15 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Paul Weckman has been Sanford Health’s first ever head of military and veteran affairs, since the program started six years ago.

“To me, it’s my calling. Being a veteran myself, and being able to help out veterans in different capacities. It’s really a calling, and I don’t see it as a job,” said Paul.

Weckman grew up on a farm near Blue Earth, Minnesota. He would join the military after college.

“I think the biggest influence was probably my father. He was in the Army at one time, in the Korean War. He was very proud. He was in the legion and the VFW, a little of that. And then as I grew older and older, Top Gun was a pretty good movie at the time. I wanted to be a fighter pilot,” said Paul.

That lead to a 26-year career, in the Navy.

“I moved 17 times. I started in Pensacola, Florida, in the flight program. Eventually, because of my depth perception, they didn’t want me landing on aircraft carriers with my depth perception not as good as it could be. So they offered me an opportunity to drive ships instead. So I thought, that isn’t too bad. Then I became fully qualified to drive ships. I’ve driven the largest ones. Aircraft carriers over a thousand feet long,” said Paul.

During his service, Paul also experienced a life changing injury.

“Unfortunately, I did have an accident when we were doing humanitarian work where we were rescuing, and going to an orphanage and we were clearing it. Back then, we didn’t have heavy equipment. We had chainsaws and things like that. I was on the second floor, and a guy accidentally dropped a tree on me, and I broke my back. It messed me up pretty bad. I was in the hospital for six months,” said Paul.

Because of all his experiences, he is able to relate with vets in a job where he works on getting them and their spouses to work at Sanford. To get them to use Sanford’s services, and in leading the health systems work with area veterans organizations.

“I’ve either lived through it, experienced it, or known someone. I’ve attained that over that 26 years. Not only those experiences, but wisdom over time,” said Paul.

Because of his work, Sanford has gotten awards for being a top military-friendly health system. And the 62 year old has more to do.

“You know, as long as I feel good. My wife and I, we talk about this. She volunteers at Sanford Health with a therapy dog. As long as we’re enjoying it, and it still continues to be my calling. But I think when I get to be 65, I might pass the torch to someone else to take on this role,” said Paul.