Sherman Gillums Jr., was named PVA's first post-9/11 veteran as executive director. (Photo Christopher DiVirgilio).
Paralyzed Veterans of America appoints first post-9/11 veteran to executive director
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) has appointed Sherman Gillums, Jr. to the position of Executive Director. PVA is the only veterans service organization that serves veterans living with spinal cord injury or disease, and Gillums has been serving as its acting executive director since January of this year. He is the organization’s first executive director to have served during the post-9/11 era.
Gillums, a U. S. Marine Corps veteran, first became involved with PVA through its innovative Operation PAVE (Paving Access for Veterans Employment) vocational program. Gillums has since held a number of leadership positions, most recently as acting executive director of the organization, and prior to that as deputy executive director and associate executive director of veterans benefits, where for nearly four years he strategically reshaped the veterans benefits department for a 21st-century reality, including implementing initiatives to improve veterans’ employment.
Gillums began his career with PVA as a national service officer in San Diego, where he developed Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits claims and clinical appeals for veterans and families in the area. He later became involved with the local PVA chapters and went on to become chapter president. He also served on PVA’s National Field Advisory Committee. Gillums returned to the VA benefits claims arena as an appellate representative at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in Washington, D.C., in 2009.
He earned a master’s degree in executive management from the University of San Diego’s School of Business and recently attended Harvard University’s Executive Education Program.
“It’s an honor to lead an organization that did so much for me when I was newly paralyzed in 2002. I follow in the footsteps of some great men who moved Paralyzed Veterans of America forward, in some cases against tremendous odds. Now that I have been entrusted with that responsibility, I will ensure we never lose focus of our core purposes — to give catastrophically wounded and disabled veterans a voice in media, society, and government; as well as deliver programs and services that tangibly impact those we serve. Their resilience is inspiring, and their willingness to impart their wisdom to me are demonstrations of selflessness that I will carry forward during my tenure as executive director.”
Gillums began his military career in the U.S. Marine Corps when he enlisted at the age of 17 and quickly ascended into leadership, retiring as a chief warrant officer. Four months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as he prepared to deploy to Afghanistan with the 1st Marine Division, Gillums was involved in a vehicle collision at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and became severely disabled. He sustained a cervical spine injury that ended his military career at age 29. Gillums received an honorable discharge from military service and went on to pursue a new career in advocacy for veterans with disabilities.
During his military career, Gillums earned two Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medals, a Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal and a Global War on Terror Service Medal. His leadership résumé includes graduation from the Marine Corps Sergeants Course, Senior Drill Instructors Course, Warrant Officer Basic School, and the topflight Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor-Trainer Course at the Center of Excellence in Quantico, Va. He was recognized as “Battalion Drill Instructor of the Year” and meritoriously promoted to the rank of staff sergeant in 1999, followed by appointment to the rank of warrant officer a year later.
“I became the first veteran of the post-9/11 era to lead one of the “big six” Congressionally chartered veteran service organizations back in January. Now that our Board of Director’s has ratified our national president’s selection by unanimous vote, Paralyzed Veterans of America has taken a bold step in a progressive direction through this generational transition of responsibility. Many of these men served during the Vietnam War and experienced struggle both during and after service that later generations would not have to face.”
Read Q&A with the new Executive Director of Paralyzed Veterans of America at this link.