Even before the U.S. military ended its ban Thursday on transgender service members openly serving, Army Sgt. Ken Ochoa, 26, already knew what it meant to openly serve.

Ochoa, who joined the military in 2010, transitioned in 2014, well before the military considered lifting the ban. He heard that other troops had made the transition and discovered an inner peace that came with the change. So he made the decision to follow suit, knowing he would silently become a different person before his fellow soldiers, his company commander, and his friends around the base.

Ochoa never formally told his company commander about his decision to transition, and the commander never asked about it, even as Ochoa’s gender and voice changed before all who knew him. His company commander never said a word to the higher-up commanders.