Aaron Skiles (Sammy, to some of his classmates), grew up in the Oakland, California, area in what he described as a culturally Jewish home. His parents, former Peace Corps volunteers, both taught at different points in their careers. Aaron grew up playing baseball, and first became interested in West Point after studying the Civil War in an AP US History class in high school. In the summer of 1992, he entered the United States Military Academy with the Class of ’96. At West Point, he enjoyed academics, majoring in international history after positive personal interaction with his plebe history professor. He also found the Jewish chapel to be a refuge and, even though he did not come from what he considered an overly-religious background, he found himself spending more time at the chapel. He even joined the Jewish Chapel Choir, and enjoyed the relationships he developed there. While at West Point, he gravitated towards music, eventually starting a band with some like-minded classmates. As the band increased in their abilities and repertoire, they traveled to Alfred University to play in a concert, cut a record, and performed regularly at the “Firstie Club.” Upon graduation, he commissioned into the Quartermaster branch, feeling that it would give him skills that would translate to the civilian sector. He picked Ft. Lewis, and served in a wide variety of roles in the SSA (Supply Support Activity). He left the Army and entered the business world when his wife enrolled in a public health finance and management program at Johns Hopkins University. After she graduated, he earned his MBA at the University of Maryland. Even though he was achieving success in the business world, music was still his passion, which eventually led him to start a band, “Bourbon Therapy.” One of his songs, “Peace That You Deserve,” addresses Veterans’ mental health issues, and the proceeds from that song support Mission 22, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing Veteran suicide.
In this interview, he talks about his childhood, and his parents’ influence on his life. He describes his West Point experiences, highlighting friends and classmates, his developing musical interests, and the importance of the Jewish Chapel during his Cadet years. He discusses his service in the Army and lessons that translated into the business world. He explores the importance of music in his life. Throughout his recollections of his experiences, he weaves in the story of meeting his wife, their courtship, and how the two of them formed a band. Finally, he reflects on the importance of a history degree, and what West Point means to him.