McKinney Police Sergeant Paul Gade sat across from me in the TSB office. Crisply dressed in his police uniform, Gade’s large frame was punctuated by his kind eyes. He appeared relaxed, but was clearly a bit uncomfortable sitting on the TSB “interview couch” preparing to talk about himself. At the same time, surrounded by the commendation memorabilia, Gade was obviously proud of his role serving his country as a Navy SEAL (the U.S. Navy’s Sea, Air and Land Forces) and for his service with McKinney’s police force, and his recognition for such.
In December, Gade was awarded the Congressional Veteran’s Commendation 2013, given by U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson (R-TX). The honor is bestowed on an individual in recognition of outstanding wartime sacrifices and community involvement during peacetime. Johnson formally launched the CVC in 2011.
Unbeknownst to Gade, fellow McKinney PD officer Lieutenant Scott Brewer and members of the McKinney’s VFW Post 2150 submitted his name to be considered for the commendation.
“I got a little suspicious,” Gade said with a smile crossing his face. “I’ve been a cop for 20 years and a few people, including Scott, started asking me about my military background.”
Brewer said, “Paul has a heart as big as anyone and he is passionate about his work and does it sincerely. He exhibits true patriotism, and exemplifies those who embody the true spirit of the word.”
Brewer said that Gade is extremely qualified for the recognition, noting that he has received over 3o commendations as a police officer.
When he received the call from Congressman Johnson’s aide who said he had been selected to receive the recognition, Gade said emphatically, “My first thought was that I was scared to death that I was going to have to speak at the ceremony. Speaking isn’t my thing, but I did have to speak and I got through it.”
Nominees are required to currently reside in the Third Congressional District. They must have served as active duty military personnel or been reservists called to active duty. They also must be retired or honorably discharged from a branch of the United States Armed Forces.
Gade said he comes from a long tradition of military service, his great-grandfather serving in WWI, his grandfather in WWII and his uncle in Vietnam with the army.
“They (his family) were super good people — they displayed integrity, were humble and honorable. When you grow up around that and realize the scope, you want to be like them,” Gade said.
“I chose the Navy, enlisted, then found out about the SEALs in 1986,” Gade said. He served 12 years active duty, initially as an enlisted seaman for four and a half years, the remainder of his time with the Seals.
Gade said that the SEAL training was “crazy difficult.” His class started with 118 men and only 12 actually graduated. Men die in training Gade explained, but regardless of how difficult the training was, “I never thought I wouldn’t make it.”
Graduation “was one of the proudest moments of my life,” Gade said.
Of his time as an active duty Navy SEAL Gade said that although his life was frequently in danger, he thinks that those experiences have helped him appreciate life more.
“I appreciate everything more,” Gade said. “Just putting your feet on the floor in the morning is something I appreciate.”
Although being a part of a SEAL team was “something I loved,” Gade said that serving was also difficult on a personal level.
“I was married at the time with two young daughters, so I got out after 12 years of active duty,” Gade said. “It was not a married person’s life. I was gone all the time.”
Gade’s post military life lead him to become a police officer in McKinney and although his marriage eventually ended, he was able to spend time with his girls who lived in Plano.
“I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason,” he said, alluding to the time he was able to devote to parenting due to being discharged from active military duty.
Gade joined McKinney PD’s motorcycle patrol and spent 10 years as a sergeant.
But the love of his SEAL career again beckoned after the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
“I wanted to go back in after 9-11 and in about 2003 the Navy established the SEAL reservists program. Because the program was new, they were willing to take an older guy like me back (Gade was 41 at the time),” Gade said.
Training began and that. For Gade, that meant intense workouts twice a day, one at the gym and one at an area pool, all the while working his regular police job. He kept up his grueling workout schedule for eight weeks and eventually became part of reserve SEAL Team 2, which is stationed on the West coast.
Then on a fateful day in October 2012, Gade was cruising by Collin College Central Park Campus on University Dr. when a young nursing student pulled out and hit him. Gade said that he remembers fighting to control the bike so that he wouldn’t be thrown off and run over, and in doing so, he tore his triceps muscle from his upper arm. The accident, which according to the firemen who witnessed the accident would have left most dead, also totaled his motorcycle and left Gade with both legs broken.
“Many people have commented to me that my conditioning (for the SEAL Unit) probably saved my life,” Gade said.
Today Gade, 53, is a sergeant over the Collin County Warrant Officers and is on medical leave with the SEAL Reserve Unit, although he hopes to receive medical clearance to return to his duties soon. He has served in the McKinney Police Department’s Patrol Division, as a detective, in the Special Operations Division, and was a SWAT member for several years.
“I’ve got to figure out what I want to do when I grow up,” Gade said with a grin.
Married to his wife Jenny, who he says “is the perfect SEAL wife,” the two live in McKinney.