Paul Donato

Branch: U.S. Marine Corps
Years Served: 2009 – 2013
Rank: Corporal
Military Occupation: Packaging Specialist
Twitter Handle: @PaulSDonato

Tell us a little about you outside of the military:

  • Cultural Blend: I am a proud product of diverse cultural roots, blending my father’s Slavic Italian roots with my mother’s Ecuadorian heritage, enriching my life with diverse traditions that profoundly influenced my identity and perspective. 
  • Lifelong learner: I am advancing my Electrical Engineering studies at LaGuardia Community College, constantly seeking new knowledge and experiences, whether through books, nature, or personal interactions. My journey is fueled by my curiosity, desire to grow, and innovation to solve real-world problems. 
  • Research Enthusiast: I conducted cancer biology research at Stony Brook University, investigating the effects of green tea on lung cancer cells, and collaborated on psychological research at Suffolk County Community College. I am passionate about scientific curiosity and commitment to healthcare innovation.
  • Global Explorer: I am a passionate traveler, having visited nearly all U.S. states and about a dozen countries. My interests in reading, culinary exploration, and understanding personal stories enrich my cultural perspectives and personal growth.
  • Driven to Impact: I previously co-founded CEEDS to improve children’s education by addressing educational deficiencies. I remain actively involved with veterans and educational organizations, primarily Student Veterans of America, Warrior-Scholar Project, and Teach for America. My actions are driven by a vision to forge a legacy of positive change, leveraging every lesson learned, every skill honed, and every experience gained to enrich the world around me.

Why are you joining the IAVA Cavalry?

  • Joining the IAVA Cavalry was an easy decision as it aligns with my mission of lifelong dedication toward service and advocacy. As an Afghanistan war veteran, my commitment to advocating for veterans goes far beyond an inherent interest. It is about ensuring that the military community’s needs are met with action. 
  • While I embark on this journey, I seek to continuously learn and strengthen my understanding of legislative processes and advocacy to make a difference that resonates through generations.

How did your military experience shape you to be the person you are today? 

  • While my military background does not solely define me, it is an essential part of who I am today. It taught me the value of structural organization, sharpening my ability to achieve goals and balance individuality with teamwork. The leadership traits and principles I adopted are incorporated into my daily life, providing a solid foundation for guiding others.
  • Moreover, my experience connected me to diverse communities, where I am quickly accepted and held a sense of belonging. These experiences have shaped me into a better leader and a mentor by improving my roles as an employee, a student, and an individual, enriching every aspect of my life with purpose and direction.

Which one of IAVA’s policy priorities for you believe is the most pressing? Why?

  • The pressing need to address burn pits and toxic exposures becomes even more urgent when considering the numerous veterans who are now grappling with cancer or enduring long-term respiratory issues as a result. Hearing their stories and meeting these individuals highlight the realistic and devastating consequences of our exposure while deployed. We must prioritize this to provide the necessary care and support for those already suffering and prevent future servicemembers from facing similar outcomes. The government’s role in ensuring the health and safety of its military personnel is crucial, and it’s time for comprehensive action to address these serious health risks and protect our veterans.

Which one of IAVA’s policy priorities do you have the strongest personal connection to? Why? 

  • The Campaign to Combat Suicide touched me on a personal level. Since I enlisted, I did not have to travel far to encounter someone struggling emotionally. I have spent countless nights looking after fellow Marines who experience emotional instability and have aided in receiving the right kind of help. These challenging moments have stayed with me. Seeing my friends fight their own battles while I was facing my own emotional challenges makes this campaign incredibly important to me. It’s not just a policy; it feels part of my story. It’s about all of us coming together to make sure we are there for each other, bring some light into those dark times, and ensure no one has to go through this alone. This campaign is our collective call to action, hoping for a better future where we all look out for one another.


Our country has an obligation to fulfill its promise to honor and support vets. Make a donation today to help IAVA fulfill its mission to connect, unite, and empower post-9/11 veterans.

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