“Shoot, move, communicate.”
Years ago, this phrase was something Paul Harrison heard a lot. He was a combat infantryman for the Army and spent time in Germany and Operation Desert Storm before returning stateside to Georgia.
Harrison says the phrase has stuck with him and still impacts him in civilian life … well, at least the “move” and “communicate” parts.
“Communication is key whether you are in the military or working as a nurse or a nursing home administrator or as a CEO,” Harrison says. “And the timing of the communication is key.”
He currently is president and CEO of Village at Incarnate Word, a nonprofit, faith-based care organization in San Antonio. He says the idea of serving has been prominent in his life. While service is highly relevant in his job, it also makes its way into every aspect of his personal life.
Harrison grew up in small-town Ingleside, TX, watching his family give to others. His uncle was a priest who served his community through faith and volunteerism, and his grandfather also was in the Army. At a young age, Paul joined the Boy Scouts of America and often went away to summer camps and Bible camps that encouraged volunteering.
“I think most people have a servant’s heart,” Harrison says. “It’s just recognizing that and saying, ‘How can I act on that?’ If they found the right path to serve others, they would enjoy it, and people do serve others and don’t always recognize that’s what they’re doing.”
His knack for helping often has been noticed by colleagues.
Bert Buegeler is a longtime friend and coworker and current director of clinical services at Brookdale Westlake Hills in Austin. He says Harrison is someone who pushes everyone, in a fun-loving way, to be their best.
“He’s a motivator,” Buegeler says. “He’s somebody that’ll get you to work hard, and you won’t even know you’re working hard because you’re having a good time.”
Living and working in Texas means putting a lot to chance with highly unpredictable weather. Harrison has been witness to multiple disaster scenarios. But for him, none was worse than Hurricane Harvey in 2017, when he was an executive director in Corpus Christi.
The Category 4 hurricane resulted in about 100 deaths and mass destruction in the state. Seeing the damage around him was a turning point, he says.
“There was a point after the hurricane passed where I was able to go outside and just survey the damage and think about what was happening,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘We’ve survived this hurricane. We’ve got plenty of food. Everybody’s going to be OK.’ … I knew at that point I was in the job that I was meant to be doing.”
Despite his constant commitment to others, Harrison also enjoys spending time outside alone, with friends, or with his wife, Cathy, who is the memory care active assistant at Village at Incarnate Word. Since he was young, Harrison has enjoyed fishing, hunting, camping and cycling.
“You will go mad if you don’t do something to keep your mind off work,” he says. “Whether you are a nurse or whether you are a nursing home administrator, it takes a lot of energy both mentally and physically to do these jobs. … To keep up your mental fitness and stay physically strong, just spending time outside is important.”
It’s right up there with moving and communicating — always.