Aaron Delaney enrolled at St. Francis College in June 2020, looking to begin a new career that would allow him to serve people through his religious calling.
Service is not new to Aaron. He spent 15 years in the military, stationed around the world during his career with the Air Force. The camaraderie he felt during those years mirrors what he says he is now experiencing at St. Francis College.
Aaron lives in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. In recognition of Veterans Day, he spoke about his military experience and his life at St. Francis College now.
How did you embark upon your life of military service?
I enlisted in 1998. I grew up in Boston in the North End. I was getting into a little riff raff on the streets of Boston, and I saw the movie Saving Private Ryan. The next day I was in the recruiting office and I enlisted into the Air Force. I told the recruiter, "I want to go get some bad guys." I was attached to the 24th Tactical Air Support Squadron, as a Tactical Air Control Party Specialist.
What did that job entail?
No matter the mission, our objective was to hunt the bad guys...I called in numerous airstrikes throughout my deployments. I served three deployments in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. I was also staged in South Korea, Africa, and Saudi Arabia.
What is you most important lesson from the military?
We're not fighting for the President. We're not fighting for the flag. We're fighting for the men to the left and right of us. That camaraderie is just unbelievable. I can't compare it to anything else. It's something I miss and something I hope to get back into. The love we have for each other [in the military] is unearthly. It's very spiritual.
What else from your military experience sticks with you?
The vast diversity. My best friends were Dan Valencia and Stanley White. Stanley White is African-American from Atlanta. Dan Valencia is Filipino from Pensacola, Florida. We were inseparable. We didn't care where we came from, we didn't care what color we were, we just saw one in each other.
What's been your career since your military service?
When I got out of active duty, I had different careers. I worked for the Hartford public schools as a behavior analyst and retired from there. I worked for Delta Air Lines. I've also worked for the No Veteran Dies Alone program in the Bronx VA. I was working with patients who were terminal and they had no one at their side. I was a power of presence before they had passed.
During the pandemic, I had a calling from God. Christ told me he wanted me to work from him. I want to become a priest to exercise the rite of exorcism expelling demons from the possessed.
How did you find your way to SFC?
I decided if a could walk with Lord Christ, my savior, then that's what I'd do. That's what led me to St. Francis College. It was spur-of-the-moment thing. That's how Christ works. He says, "I want you here. I want you to walk with me." The first college that popped up when I searched for religious colleges was St. Francis, and I knew it was a calling.
How has your first few months been at SFC?
I felt so welcome from the get-go, working with Romello [Rogers, SFC Admissions Counselor] who orchestrated my whole getting into the college. He checks up on me every now and then. It's a family-ness at St. Francis College, like the bond I talked about with the military. I just feel that presence here, that bond. It's a nurturing feeling.
How have your classes been going?
They've been awesome. I come to campus twice a week, for my survey of religion course and my art course.
My professors are always available to help students troubleshoot problems. If I want to stay after class, they're there. That accessibility has just been very instrumental in my development and my progression in the courses.
I would also like to acknowledge the professors teaching asynchronous online courses, who have been more than accommodating, meeting via zoom during office and non- office hours to offer guidance to the subject matter.
What do you say to other veterans who may be considering St. Francis College?
I'd highly recommend it because I didn't think it was going to be this easy. Dealing with red tape of the government – getting your VA bill -- it can be very worrisome for veterans. I would want to make veterans feel at ease and let them know that St. Francis College is the right place to be. They have your back, and you're going to get everything that you need here for you to be successful.