Ten months ago I traveled to Detroit with another veteran to attend the Republican debate between three politicians and a seasoned businessman named Donald J. Trump. Over the course of the next several months, I would follow the campaign of Mr. Trump — attending three of his rallies, and two rallies of his running mate Mike Pence. I was humbled to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at one of Mr. Trump’s rallies and spoke on stage about veterans during Mr. Trump’s last visit to Toledo, Ohio. Shortly before Election Day, I hosted his son Eric in my office to meet with student service members and veterans who wanted to hear about Mr. Trump’s commitment to the military and his plan to reform The Department of Veterans Affairs. 

In more than 15 years of military service, I have served under two Democratic presidents, Clinton and Obama, and now two Republican presidents, George W. Bush and Trump. In fact, on June 22, 2009, President Obama commissioned me as an Ensign in the Navy Reserve during a private Oval Office ceremony; it was a day my wife and I will never forget.
The reasons individuals decide to serve in our military, are diverse as America itself. As I walked into the Oval Office that day in June, I couldn’t help but think about the day my father immigrated to the United States from Iran and met my mother. Their courage and desire to have their children born here gave me my American heritage, and I consider it the best gift from my parents. I am part of the tapestry of diversity that makes this country so grand.

Haraz Ghanbari participates in a Trump rally during the campaign season.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Haraz Ghanbari
I see daily how service to America is wrought from ordinary individuals giving us extraordinary results when seeking the greater good. One of the regular reminders that I have of the wonder and glory of service is when I look around my home and see four, folded American flags. These flags draped the caskets of maternal grandfathers – both World War II veterans, and the caskets of my wife’s grandfathers – fellow Navy veterans.

Regardless of political affiliation, our service members will continue to carry out the orders of the day. Nearly all of the service members and veterans I have spoken to are thankful to have President Trump as our new commander-in-chief. He is a plain-spoken, non-politician, who took his message directly to the American voters throughout the course of a campaign. Here in Ohio, Trump secured a historic margin of victory. Why discuss Ohio? With more than 866,000 veterans, Ohio is home to the sixth-largest population of veterans in the United States. As a nation — we must, we shall, and we will honor the service and sacrifice of our nation’s veterans, and that begins with reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs. I fully support President Trump’s 10-point plan to ensure our veterans receive the care and support they have earned through their service to our country.

Through both my continuing service as a commissioned officer in the United States Navy Reserve and in my day-to-day interactions working with transitioning veterans, I know firsthand the challenges our service members, veterans and their families face. Transforming the Department of Veterans Affairs to address the evolving needs of our 21st century troops, while continuing to care for and support our service members of previous generations, is long overdue.

This past week I traveled back to Washington where I used to work as an Associated Press staff photojournalist and member of the White House and Pentagon Press Corps. Having photographed the second inauguration of President George W. Bush and President Obama’s first inauguration, I was grateful to attend President Trump’s inauguration simply as a spectator. As I listened to the comments he delivered during the inaugural address, I was once again energized and hopeful for our future. I was reminded that there is no partisan way to take care of our service members and veterans, and to honor the sacrifice of those brave men and women who gave their last breath in defense of our nation and way of life. As President Trump said, "What truly matters is not which party controls our government but whether our government is controlled by the people. Jan. 20, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again."
Following the inauguration, my wife and I attended the "A Salute To Our Armed Services" inaugural ball at the National Building Museum. The energy in the room was palpable, and the audience thundered when President Trump announced Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, both retired Marine generals, were sworn-in earlier that evening. Another veteran, Mike Pompeo, rounds out the National Security team after being sworn-in Monday evening as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
I believe in President Trump’s strong, problem-solving commitment to doing what is best for our nation. There is no doubt that challenges lie ahead, but as President Trump declared in his inaugural address, "We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity."

I am grateful to continue my service, and thankful for our new Commander-in-Chief Donald J. Trump.

Haraz N. Ghanbari is a prior enlisted Army Sergeant, and currently serves as a Lieutenant in the Navy Reserve. He is a veterans advocate, and works with transitioning service members, veterans and their families who are pursuing higher-education degrees.