BOISE, Idaho – Staff Sgt. Trillitye Paullin suffered physical and sexual abuse by a family member while growing up but chose to turn her adversity into positively changing the world, serving her community and inspiring others around her.
"The abuse inflicted upon me as a child does not define the woman I am today," said Paullin, who serves in the Idaho Army National Guard's Joint Force Headquarters. "I have overcome my past and choose to illuminate my journey by lighting the path for others."
Paullin's journey has included being named to the 2020 list of Idaho Women of the Year this month, earning a doctorate, raising two children, starting her own business, working full time in the quality assurance department at Darigold, managing a nonprofit organization for veterans and serving her 15th year in the Guard.
Before enlisting in the Guard during her senior year of high school, Paullin dreamed of a future where she could provide unity, support and stability for her family. The military gave her that opportunity, she said, to continue her education and achieve her dreams.
"Being a woman who has served our country through the military is an integral part of my identity," said Paullin. "It has given me strength to shed the yoke of my abuse and focus on my amazing career and philanthropic opportunities ahead."
Two years after enlisting, Paullin deployed to Iraq. The experience gave her a different outlook on the misfortunes experienced by other people and further fueled her desire to change the world.
"I witnessed the true adversity of a place where poverty, hunger and rampant disease were part of everyday life," said Paullin. "After that deployment, I made it my mission to take full advantage of the freedoms afforded to me."
Once home, Paullin earned her bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry and a doctorate in cellular and molecular biology. While attending graduate school in 2015, Paullin discovered her 1-month-old baby in her crib with a bloody diaper and body covered in eczema.
Doctors determined Paullin's child suffered from severe food allergies triggered by proteins in Paullin's breastmilk. Her struggle with breastfeeding, which continued with her second child, led Paullin to found the company Free to Feed Inc. in 2018.
"I started my company to empower women who want to continue breastfeeding so they don't suffer the same problems my family did," said Paullin. "My mission is to ensure those families never have to be told their breastmilk is killing their baby or have to spend countless time trying to navigate what's in their breastmilk causing their baby's seeming random reactions."
Paullin has patented medical technology for mothers to analyze proteins in their breastmilk. The company's "Freedom Strips" or test strips, allow mothers to make informed deductions of what could be eliciting allergic responses in their children, rather than blindly eliminate food groups from their diet or switch to hypoallergenic baby formula, said Paullin.
Between raising her family, starting a business and earning a doctorate, Paullin also joined The Mission Continues in 2016. The national nonprofit organization enables veterans and civilians to serve their communities through various improvement projects.
In 2018, Paullin became the organization's first platoon leader for Idaho. She manages approximately 125 volunteers who have completed more than 24 projects that improve youth education in the community. Projects include renovating school facilities, refurbishing a school baseball field, building a school community garden and creating an outdoor school classroom.
"The Mission Continues platoon has made an enormous impact on the local veteran and youth community," said Paullin. "It has also been an incredible way for people to give back."