Ammar Campa-Najjar
Ammar Campa-Najjar in his reserve officer’s uniform on Thursday. Photo Adrian Eng-Gastelum

Ammar Campa-Najjar, who made news in his campaigns for Congress and Mayor of Chula Vista, is focused on a new type of campaign following his commissioning this week as a Navy Reserve officer.

On Thursday, Campa-Najjar, 34, was sworn in on the deck of the USS Midway.

Campa-Najjar described his commissioning as an “only-in America” opportunity for a Latino-Arab American whose childhood was spent traveling between Gaza and Chula Vista.

“Only in America can the son of a Mexican woman from the barrio and an Arab man from a conflict zone have the freedom to chart his own course, serve his country, and become a Navy officer for the greatest military the world has ever known,” he told People magazine after the ceremony.

The ceremony on the Midway represented a personal redemption for Campa-Najjar. In 2018, former Rep. Duncan Hunter, whose son was running for re-election to Congress, held a press conference on the aircraft carrier to denounce Campa-Najjar as a security risk.

Rep. Jimmy Panetta, a Congressman from Northern California and a former Navy intelligence officer, said Campa-Najjar’s background “strengthened his fidelity to our country and values” and predicted he would help the Navy with his command of Arabic and Spanish.

Campa-Najjar told People that he had long dreamed of joining the Navy, and tried to enlist at the age of 17, but his family wouldn’t sign off.

“I am reminded of the quote from Winston Churchill, ‘The reservist is twice the citizen,'” he said with pride.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.