It started with a television commercial in 1999 that had a simple slogan: “Let the journey begin.” 

Paul Hannam, then 17-years-old, was working at McDonald’s.

He had recently moved from Jamaica to Maryland and was trying to figure out his future. As he sat on his couch, a commercial for the U.S. Navy came on and happenstance stepped in.

“It could have easily been a commercial for the Army, Marine Corps, or Air Force, but at that time it was Navy. That is all it took. That commercial came on and I knew I wanted to join the military,” Hannam said.

He admits now that he had a limited knowledge of military life but he knew that he wanted to work in medicine. The recruiter suggested the rate of hospital corpsman. Then he took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).

“I had just passed the ASVAB and the recruiter looked at me and said, ‘Your score is really good. Do you want to try for something else?’” Hannam recalled. “I said, ‘I want to be a corpsman.’”

For Hannam, the Navy gave him opportunity that changed his life. One that set him on path to learn, excel and, in his case, become a doctor of medicine.

“I wanted to move further in my life. The Navy afforded me a way to not only learn more about myself and my limits but learn about others as well to see how the world works.”

As an active duty hospital corpsman, he served at stations in Japan, North Carolina and Iraq. He also became a citizen when he said the Oath of Allegiance in Charlotte, N.C. As he served, his love of medicine grew and eventually he had to make a decision on his next step. So he applied to High Point University in North Carolina and was accepted. He continued his service in the Navy Reserve and went on to earn a degree in biology with a minor in chemistry.

He was later recalled to active duty and during that tour in Norfolk he received word that he was accepted to medical school at Meharry Medical College in Nashville. It was dream achieved and it also brought about a sacrifice. He left the Navy Reserve in 2013 in order to focus on his studies. 

“I love the Navy. I didn’t want to get out,” he said. “I always dreamt of going back as an officer. Maybe to help an enlisted person in the same position as me to guide them back to school to help realize their dream.” 

He didn’t stray from that dream either. When he completed his studies and become a doctor, he made a call to Navy Recruiting District Nashville and learned about the Training in Medical Specialty (TMS) program.

A short while later, as he spoke to the officer recruiter, he had a surreal feeling as he heard him say, “Congratulations, you got in.”

He calls it a pivotal moment in his life that made him truly appreciate his journey from enlisted to officer.

“I know that from this moment on whenever I’m in my uniform, that will mean something specific to every enlisted person that I am around. It is humbling because I realize that I have a lot of responsibility not only to myself and my Navy but everyone under my command. So it’s definitely something that I will wear with pride but also humility,” he said.

Recently, Hannam took the Oath of Office and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Navy Reserve Forces during a ceremony at Navy Recruiting District Nashville headquarters.

Now with a wife and three young boys, he is excited for the future of his own continued naval service and perhaps that of his children.


“I hope if they do join the military that they will be Sailors,” he said.


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Updated March 1, 2017 (kbh)