The tattoos on Aaron Harris are reminders of his past. Each animal represents someone in his family. His twin, Adam, is a tiger. No two tigers have the same stripes. His dad is a bear. His little sister, a monkey. But the tattoo Aaron talks most about is his mom. The snake.

The greatest thing a man or a woman can do is adapt to your situation.

Aaron can’t explain why his mom beat them so much. All he remembers is, that was the daily norm. After years of abuse, he and his brother went to live with their dad, moving around a lot, living in different states. Bouncing from school to school didn’t help much. Neither did all the fights and stealing cars to get to and from school. Aaron knew he was on his way of becoming a statistic, like many of the young friends he lost.

In 2015, Aaron enrolled in a rigorous fire academy in Oakland, CA. This was one of the toughest years of his life. Not because of the grueling hours, physical training and discipline required to make the cut. He had played football in college and knew how to persevere. But what many didn’t know was that Aaron was homeless, bouncing around from couch to couch, from parks and city benches to the social services office for food stamps. There were days he didn’t think he would make it. But then, you can’t be a victim in life, he’d think. He carried on.



Today, at 29, Aaron is determined to live a life of service. He battled the wild fires of California last summer and currently works at UCSF’s Intensive Care Unit. Soon, Aaron will start applying for firefighter positions in Oakland, the same city that once saw him as another nameless face on yet another city bench.