Who are the warriors searching for the Tony Rankins and other homeless veterans in America?

Reza-Kavoosi
Reza-Kavoosi
Warriors who protect the warriors.

“In order to be anything, you must be brave enough to fail.”

Kirk Douglas, who died this week at 103, will long be remembered for those words.

At the State of the Union, President Trump featured one man who learned life takes more than bravery and courage.

Army Veteran Tony Rankin was applauded for overcoming the loss of his family, addiction, and homelessness. For many of his fellow servicemen and women, the story is different.

More than 7,000 brave American veterans die at their own hands each year. They would fill the House Chamber where President Trump spoke 16 times over between State of the Union speeches. 

More than 7,000 brave American veterans die at their own hands each year. They would fill the House Chamber where President Trump spoke 16 times over between State of the Union speeches. 

Chamber of U.S. House of Representatives
More than 7,000 American veterans die at their own hands each year. They would fill the House Chamber where President Trump spoke 16 times over between State of the Union speeches.

Tens of thousands more are holding on to the very edge of life.

Reza Kavoosi knows them well. Kavoosi is a warrior who protects the warriors.

Day and night, Kavoosi searches alleyways, public parks, and abandoned buildings for brothers-in-arms. He knows that finding the Tony Rankins is as urgent as any life or death challenge.

Kavoosi, 34, was born in Khuzestan, an industrial southern province of Iran, as the 18-year Iran-Iraq war approached its end. As a doctor, his mother relocated frequently to serve Iran’s most distraught communities, giving her son, whose name means “contentment,” lifelong lessons about service, sacrifice, and resilience in the face of suffering, trauma and despair.

At 15, she got Reza a passport and offered him the opportunity to experience life a world away from the traditions and ancient history of Khuzestan.

Arriving in Budapest, Hungary to finish high school, culture shock came quickly as Kavoosi watched people dancing in the streets, kissing in public, and speaking freely — freedoms very different than those he’d known in traditional Iranian communities.

“You couldn’t do any of that in Iran,” he said in an interview with the Deseret News. “It took a while for me to adjust to my freedom. But once I had this new lifestyle, I knew I couldn’t go back.”

Budapest would be a temporary home. His yearning was America.

“America was my dream — it represented freedom and the chance to do something important with my life,” Kavoosi said. “My parents always told me there was no other country like it in the world.”

His dream came true in 2006 when he was accepted into a prestigious international program at Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“When things got tough, I was reminded that it was my duty to give back … I owed it to my fellow soldiers to do a good job and fight for my flag and my country,”

Reza Kavoosi

Committed to repaying the country he cherished, Kavoosi enlisted in the U.S. Army, deployed to Afghanistan as a Ranger and interpreter, and took on dangerous counter-terrorism missions, “knowing that a single bullet could take my life away and all that I loved.”

“When things got tough,” he recalled, “I was reminded that it was my duty to give back … I owed it to my fellow soldiers to do a good job and fight for my flag and my country,” Kavoosi said about long days and nights serving in Afghanistan. During lonely nights far from home and family, he took comfort unfurling an American flag on the most remote Afghan mountaintops.

Soldiers beneath an American flag in Afghanistan.
Soldiers beneath an American flag in Afghanistan.

Kavoosi speaks six languages and has earned advanced degrees in Aviation Administration, Emergency Management, and Homeland Security. He served in the U.S. Army for ten years, reaching the rank of Second Lieutenant.

Today, Kavoosi is the face of the warrior’s warriors whose mission is to find, serve, and protect every Tony Rankin.

“It is every citizen’s duty to help each other — especially those who served for our great nation,” Kavoosi said of his decision to pursue his “dream job” at Operation Sacred Trust, where he serves on the frontline of America’s war on veteran homelessness.

“As we celebrate Tony Rankin,” said Jacob Torner, Kavoosi’s team leader at the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program in Pembroke Pines, Florida, “we must remember there are tens of thousands more hanging on to life.”

“Finding them where they are,” Torner said, “is our sacred trust.”

2 Comments

  1. I love this article and the heading “Who are the warriors searching for the Tony Rankins and other homeless veterans in America?
    My brother is Travis Steffens, the CEO of R Investments. He is one of the warriors searching for the Tony Rankins in our Nation. Mr. Tony Rankins is one of the many individuals R Investments has helped out of homelessness. Tony has worked very hard and is a shining example of hope to our Veterans and other homeless individuals
    I really like what this website represents, and I passed your article on to Mr. Steffens and Mr. Rankins. Thank you and keep up the great work!

    1. Thank you, Hannah. We’re grateful for your commitment to our veterans and deeply appreciate your brother. We are in this together. If you or your brother visit South Florida, we’d be very happy to meet.

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