Former Army specialist from Aloha
uses learned lessons to teach hospitality
Vietnam veteran Paul Paz says he doesn’t think much about his time in the U.S. Army, but he uses the principles learned to positively impact his community daily.
Paz was raised during the draft but chose to enlist after seeing several people who were “totally against” the war enter the armed forces. Paz said he decided to join because he felt it was his responsibility.
“It wasn’t for the war — it was my duty to serve,” he said. “I didn’t do anything special. I just did what I think is right.”
Paz knew other young men who went to Vietnam and died, including a close friend from Sunset High School, so he thought he also needed to do his part.
“They paid the price and were willing to take the risk, so it was my role too,” Paz said. “I did it on his behalf and all others, and now it’s important to live my full life.”
Paz said he never really processed what he went through and saw in Vietnam. He knew he had a job to do while there and needed to return to the United States as soon as possible.
“I just wanted to come home,” he said.
Growing up in St. Mary’s Home for Boys in Aloha and then serving in Vietnam from 1966 to 1969, Paz said he’s seen a certain harshness the world can have. But those experiences also taught him lessons he has used throughout his life and career.
“I’ve seen the worst of the worst,” he said. “I’ve been shocked to absolute silence. But both experiences taught me to have a sense of humor. The biggest thing I can control is my attitude.”
After a few years selling insurance once out of the Army, Paz found a passion in the hospitality industry, where he has been working, consulting and teaching the next generation ever since.
“Waiting tables was never what I planned to do,” he said. “American culture says it’s not a real job. But it helps real families, buys real cars — it’s a real job.”
Paz started Waiter’s World in 2000, a consulting company that took him across the United States and Canada to share tips and tricks of the hospitality world with waiters and businesses.
While vastly different stakes, Paz said his time and training in Vietnam taught him lessons he could bring into the world of waiting tables.
Soldiers would have a checklist of everything they needed to bring into the bush for combat, and the same rule applies to getting ready to seat, greet and handle all kinds of customers.
“Come prepared, and come ready,” Paz said.
Paz also brought the idea of situational awareness to the frontlines of the world of hospitality, encouraging staffers to keep an eye on their tables and what else is going on around the dining room.
Now, he spends a lot of time teaching high school students about the hospitality industry in local classrooms. He starts each class with a smile and a hearty handshake for each student, and he sees them automatically brighten up and engage with him and the class for the rest of the lecture.
“Hospitality culture offers shelter and kindness,” Paz said. “We’re a community.”
Paz thanks Washington County Veterans Services for his continued success now, as employees in the county division connected him with benefits he never thought possible in recent months.
When he struggled to get ahold of his discharge papers after a fire destroyed military records housing in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1973, county staff were able to retrieve his paperwork and set him on the path toward receiving benefits.
“I want to get the word out to all veterans to make the phone call or go online,” Paz said. “We earned it, we did serve, and this is what it’s for.”