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Two Officers, a War and a Story that Shows the Power of Community

4 Mins read

There is always reason for joy when the good overcomes the strife. Graham Pulliam is a Southern Californian and Esmatullah Sharif is an Afghan, who both served their respective countries honorably during America’s longest war in Afghanistan. Sharif served with the Afghan National Army for 12 years before resigning his to work for the U.S. Department of State in 2014. Pulliam was twice deployed to Afghanistan between 2009 and 2012, first as a U.S. Marine Corps Captain whose four-man team lived and patrolled with Afghan Army units and second as a company commander for the storied 1st Reconnaissance Battalion.

Even though they did not serve together, today, Sharif is the warehouse manager of Paul Davis Restoration of Pasadena CA (which opened Aug. 5 in what used to be a 9,600-square-foot punk rock venue and is owned and operated by Pulliam. Sharif, his wife, Shama, and oldest daughter, Sedra, are enrolled in ESL classes two nights a week and one of his sons, 10-year-old Wesal, plays AYSO soccer. And when he’s at work, it should be mentioned, Sharif always has a carafe of delicious hot chai tea within arm’s reach, ready to pour a cup for any team member.

It’s a wonderful ending to a dastardly beginning and none of it would have been possible without the benevolence of many in the Southern California community – such as Pulliam and countless others, he is quick to mention – who have opened their arms to Afghan refugees as our country celebrates Veterans Day and all members of the United States Armed Forces.

Philanthropy is also at the forefront of the hundreds of locations across North America of Paul Davis Restoration, recognized as one of the most trusted brands in the insurance restoration industry, whose teams are recognized as Difference Makers™, honoring daily the company’s mission to “deliver an experience of extraordinary care while serving people in their time of need.”

This past April, the International Institute of Los Angeles – which aids refugees, immigrants, and others – was requesting volunteers to assist with the large influx of Afghan refugees to Southern California. Pulliam’s parish – Holy Family Catholic Church in South Pasadena – assembled a volunteer group who hosted a welcome BBQ for the Sharif family in May. The group named itself “Melgari” which means “friend” in Pashto, one of the two official languages of Afghanistan.

Pulliam and his family attend the Holy Family Catholic Church and he said, “When I found out there was an Afghan family in need of help and support through my church, I needed to be involved. Having served there, I knew what these families had gone through to get out of Afghanistan. When I found out that the patriarch of this particular family had served in the Afghan National Army and had worked for the U.S. Department of State there in security I had an instant sense of camaraderie and was glad to be able to do my part as an ally.”

In addition to his seven years of service in elite U.S. Marine Corps units, the 43-year-old Pulliam’s background includes experience as a product developer, business operator and entrepreneur, who decided to join Paul Davis after a six-month process of vetting various franchise opportunities. Pulliam, who also earned an MBA from The UCLA Anderson School of Management, said he chose Paul Davis because “it was the best opportunity and a remarkable group of people aligned with my core values, which are still honor, courage, and commitment.”

Living in El Sereno with his wife, Brooke, and sons Scott (5) and Mick (3), Pulliam was already well-versed in the construction trades before becoming a Paul Davis franchise owner. His father was a noted local architect and urban planner who taught at the USC School of Architecture. “I grew up on job sites,” said Pulliam, who before joining Paul Davis served as Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President for a full-service commercial construction contractor in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

With success in business and serving his country in five global deployments to some of the most dangerous places U.S. forces operated, perhaps Pulliam’s most meaningful achievement might be what he and others in his community have provided for Esmatullah and Shama Sharif and their seven children, ages 7 to 21.

After leaving the Afghan National Army in October 2014, Sharif worked for the U.S. Department of State as a security officer at Jalalabad airfield until Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban in August 2021. Sharif and his family were among the fortunate to be airlifted from Hamid Karzai International Airport by U.S. Forces during Operation Allies Refuge and relocated to one of seven U.S. bases for processing before eventually resettling in a small apartment in Temple City, Calif.

“I certainly couldn’t have done this alone,” shared Pulliam. “My wife and the “Melgari” group at my church also went out of their way to make Sharif’s family feel welcome and helped them get settled.”

Things moved quickly from there. From May through July the “Melgari” group helped the Sharifs complete Temporary Protected Status (TPS) applications and other necessities for life in their new country. And on July 13, 2022, Esmatullah Sharif was hired as Warehouse Manager of Paul Davis Restoration of Pasadena CA. Today, Sharif’s two oldest sons, Majed and Hewad, also have jobs of their own.

“Our stories are intertwined,” concluded Graham.” I realize now that it sounds like something out of a movie. Esmatullah and his family endured much in their journey from Afghanistan to a new life and a promising new start with Paul Davis, a company with rock solid values that mirror our own. Building my own team and creating opportunities for my community were fundamental motivators compelling this entrepreneurial leap. I’m humbled by Esmatullah on a daily basis and honored to have him on our team. I guess some things are just meant to be.”

Rhonda Sanderson is a franchise specialist and publicist with 41 years in the industry. For more than 55 years, Paul Davis Restoration has restored residential and commercial properties damaged by fire, water, mold, storms, and disasters. Paul Davis is a one-stop shop for disaster damage and restoration and is approaching 350 franchises in the United States and Canada. The professionals at Paul Davis are certified in emergency restoration, reconstruction, and remodeling. For more information, visit the company website at www.pauldavis.com. For more information about a franchise go to www.pauldavisbusiness.com

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