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BR A N D AV E. ST U DIOS CON T EN T

Faith guided an Army colonel
through 30 years of service
BY LORI ROSE, BRAND AVE. STUDIOS CONTRIBUTING WRITER

“II p
pray every day that I’m where I’m supposed to be,”
hee ssaid.
M
MILITARY PROVIDED DIRECTION
D
Dixon, now 55 and a resident of Chesterfield,
grraduated from Principia School in 1983. Though
hiis friends were heading off to college, Dixon had no
pllans of his own. When a family friend sent him an
ap
pplication to the New Mexico Military Institute, he
ap
pplied and was accepted.
H soon found himself at boot camp at Fort Knox,
He
K After eight weeks at Fort Knox, he was on a bus
Ky.
to
R
o Roswell,
N.M., where the boot camp experience
sttarted all over again. “It was rough,” he said. “But
n
I needed
it. I needed to grow up. I had no other
diirection in life.”

PAUL DIXON. PHOTO PROVIDED BY PAUL DIXON

F

ollowing his Christian Science beliefs while
serving in the U.S. Army for 30 years was a
personal balancing act for now-retired Col. Paul G.
Dixon.

As a company commander, he was well-known
among his soldiers for abstaining from alcohol — the
“forever designated driver,” he joked. But less obvious
was his daily reliance on his faith to serve others and
to survive the horrors of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

D
Dixon graduated from the Institute with an associate’s
deegree and a commission as a second lieutenant, yet he
sttill didn’t see the military in his future. It wasn’t until
hee moved
mo
home to St. Louis and got married three
yeears later that he thought about his commitment
to the service. A search at the National Personnel
Records Center turned up a surprise: Dixon had
already been promoted to first lieutenant.
The promotions kept coming as Dixon served the
next 30 years in the Army and the Army Reserve,
completing six tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan
and earning the Bronze Star for meritorious service
and leadership in combat.

As a Christian Scientist, prayer is first aid, he said.
“Medical treatment — that’s second aid to me.”

As company commander of the 318th Psychological
Operations Company (PYSOP), he and his soldiers
were deployed to Iraq in February 2003 for 14
months. He led some 60 soldiers from Kuwait all the
way north through Baghdad to Mosul, engaging in
hundreds of firefights along the way but never losing
one of his own, he said.

When Dixon was wounded in Afghanistan in 2013
in an accident that left him with pain and the lasting
effects of a traumatic brain injury, Dixon’s faith
carried him through, as it does today, whenever the
memories of serving in a war zone resurface.

As a PSYOP company, their goal was to attract the
enemy into areas where the main infantry could
engage them in battle, he said. Inevitably, that meant
he and his soldiers were the first contact with the
insurgents they were fighting.

“I should have been dead six times over there,” Dixon
said. “I can tell you prayer is the only reason I lived.”

STORIES OF HONOR ® IS PRESENTED BY:

WHEN YOU CALL THE ELEPHANT
“It happened all the time,” he said. “When you call
the elephant to come running, you can’t always get
out of the way.”

After returning home from Iraq, Dixon returned
to active duty and went to work at the U.S.
Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base,
then deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 as part of
the U.S. Special Operations Command of the 9th
Psychological Operations Battalion. He later served
with the Army’s Center for Lessons Learned, traveling
throughout the region to meet with commanders and
study what worked and what didn’t in battle.

While traveling to a base in southern Afghanistan,
Dixon was injured when a C-130 airplane ramp failed
to fully open. He was hospitalized for much of the
next year and retired from military service in 2015.
Today, he works for a company that is supporting the
new building project for the National GeospatialIntelligence Agency.

Dixon said he rarely talks about his experiences
overseas, even with his own family. They’ve gone
through enough, he said.

Through his deployments when contact with home
was infrequent, his wife and two daughters only had
access to the news reports of fighting and casualties.
“That can wear on you,” he said. “PTSD affects
the whole family. Even though I never talk about
the horrors I saw, they have their own feelings of
depression and loss and abandonment.”

He relies on prayer and follows the advice of his
grandfather, who served as a Marine in World War II.

“He never talked about it,” Dixon said. “All he said
was, war is hell. Suck it up and take it to your grave.”
Stories are told from the nominee’s point of view. This content was
produced by Brand Ave. Studios. The news and editorial departments of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had no role in its creation or
display. For more information about Brand Ave. Studios, contact
tgriffin@stltoday.com.

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