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Veteran comes full circle with the Red Cross

Originally published on the Red Cross Northwest Region blog

He’s not sure whether he would’ve ended up working for the Red Cross had an emergency communication not come while he was deployed in the Middle East. But Aaron Slattery, who now is an Service to the Armed Forces AmeriCorps member for the Red Cross, said he can’t think of a better position.

It’s taken a while to get there.

Slattery, who grew up in California and Oregon, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1994 for several reasons, including having relatives in the military and remembering how Vietnam veterans were thought of by that point.

“I think I always kind of knew I wanted to go into the military,” Slattery said. “And basically, I saw a lot of guys who went to Vietnam get respect.”

His grandfather was a prisoner of war in World War II and battled the Japanese Navy before capture. His life was spared only because a rain storm flooded the Japanese guns, disabling them and allowing enough time for the Emperor to call off his troops.

Inevitably, Slattery faced enemies as well. He was deployed to Camp Kalsu in Iraq and elsewhere, including Kuwait in 2003, and stayed for about 15 months.

Major explosions were part of Slattery’s norm while deployed. “At some point, you just get used to it,” he said.

Another thing he had to get used to was sleeping outside, with just a cot and mosquito net, as it was too hot to stay in tents and there were no barracks. Soldiers built a makeshift shower from plywood and other materials, still, the water wasn’t cool enough to shower in until around 2 a.m.

Although Slattery adjusted to much in his military career, he wasn’t quite ready to get an emergency message through the American Red Cross saying his father was facing surgery in Utah due to a recent brain cancer diagnosis.

“Within a short time I was on my way home to be there and support my family as my dad went under the knife — and it was thanks to the Red Cross,” he wrote in an email.

His father’s surgeons helped him recover fully, and Slattery returned to combat.

But soon, Slattery was on his way back to the U.S. where he became an Army National Guard member in 2005 and was deployed to help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, getting his first taste of disaster relief.

When he retired from the military in 2015, Slattery began volunteering for the American Red Cross serving Snohomish County.

“While my thinking was focused on disaster relief, I was presented with the opportunity to volunteer with Service to the Armed Forces,” he wrote. “Now I could help bring others home just like the Red Cross did for me so many years ago. Then, the position for the AmeriCorps’s SAF caseworker became available and I couldn’t pass up the chance to help out full time.”

He’s had the position since Oct. 1.

“I just thought it was an interesting story about how somebody comes full circle,” he said.