Student Union Building
875 Perimeter Drive MS 4264
Moscow, ID 83844-4264
1031 N. Academic Way,
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814
Aaron and Bonnie Contreras
Aaron is in his final year of law school and Bonnie is a graduate student in counseling and human services. They have three children, Kenya, age 7; Amara, age 4; and Xander, who is nearly 2.
“It’s fabulous that Operation Education allows for support for the spouse,” said Bonnie. “Aaron and I have often talked about the sacrifices between the soldier and the family. Though very different, I think they are equally significant. We were thrilled that I could apply, and when we received the funding we were doubly excited.”
Aaron enlisted in December 2000 as a sophomore at Idaho State University and was at basic training on Sept. 11, 2001. He completed his degree at ISU while participating in the ROTC program, and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the Army National Guard. He was deployed to Afghanistan where he flew some 500 hours as an AH-64A Apache helicopter pilot.
“I applied to the University of Idaho College of Law while I was still in Afghanistan, “ said Aaron. He was surprised that he got a quick response from the director of admissions. “I still remember because he said – it was a short e-mail – he said ‘You’re accepted, don’t’ worry about it, come home safe and we’ll be here.’ That meant a lot to me. I applied to other law schools and it was just standard form letters. That’s why I chose the University of Idaho.”
He started law school in fall 2007, but didn’t realize he was eligible for Operation Education assistance until a year later. He became an Operation Education Scholar in spring 2009, and Bonnie was accepted into the program this fall. Aaron and Bonnie are two of the three Operation Education Scholars who, this year, are supported by funds from the Pat Tillman Foundation.
“I’m not a traditional student, and neither is my wife,” said Aaron. “I’ve worked, I’ve deployed and went to Afghanistan. It means a lot that the University and the Tillman Foundation recognize my service. One of the goals of the scholars is to continue to give back – to the military community and the University and community in general. I really want to continue to be involved with the University and the Tillman Foundation and help other students.”
Aaron’s injuries include a herniated disc in his back, tendonitis and bursitis in both elbows, and he also suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“The experience, the disability, does make it harder for me to focus and remember things,” he said. “Compared to my experience with learning in high school and as an undergraduate, I can recognize a big difference. That being said, the University has a great support service for students who need help. I take advantage of that.”
Both Aaron and Bonnie will earn their degrees in May and are making plans for the future.
“Because we won’t have as much student debt, we can look at a lot more options as far as employment and places to live,” said Aaron. “I’m considering working for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which might pay less, but it would be enjoyable to help other veterans.”