You Are Strong! Center on Veterans Health and Human Services, Inc. (You Are Strong!) is a social change advocacy nonprofit organization founded by Xiomara A. Sosa in 2012. You Are Strong! acknowledges that after returning from combat, many veterans struggle to readjust to life at home. Frontline providers play a critical role in helping veterans reclaim their lives by providing care.
You Are Strong!’s mission is to combat stigma and provide integrative health and human services information to veterans and their families.
You Are Strong!’s vision is a society where veterans can seek and achieve optimum integrative health through recovery and achieve and sustain a positive way of life through available services after serving their country in peacetime or in wartime.
You Are Strong! serves veterans and their families.
You Are Strong! is culturally competent and inclusive of Hispanic and sexual/gender minority (LGBT+) veterans and their families.
You Are Strong! is comprehensive and integrative in its approach and we serve veterans and their families.
Through You Are Strong!’s three core work areas, ADVOCATE, FACILITATE, RESEARCH, You Are Strong! advocates for veterans, facilitates for veterans and their families, and researches information about veterans’ health and human services needs through an informative digital platform that enables them to learn about and access help and support for their own health and human services care.
ADVOCATE: You Are Strong! advocates on behalf of veterans and their families seeking help for basic welfare and essential quality of life services.
FACILITATE: You Are Strong! facilitates awareness of, education for, and access to integrative health and human services for veterans and their families.
RESEARCH: You Are Strong! researches and coordinates information currently available that serves veterans and their families and streamlines that information to make it easily understandable and accessible to them.
The You Are Strong! Advocacy Networks:
- Coalition of Female Veteran Leaders
- National Hispanic Veterans Advocacy Network
- Operation She is Strong! Women Veterans Mental Health and Human Services Network
- Sexual and Gender (LGBTQQIA) Minority Veterans Advocacy Network
Why You Are Strong!?
There is still so much unnecessary and unfounded negative stigma going on about getting the mental health help that you need, especially for veterans. I am very determined to change that and get people to see that it takes courage to get the help you need and there is no reason to feel shame or anything negative about it. Mental health is equally as important as physical health; there is no shame in seeing doctors or professionals for either. You Are Strong! is one more avenue for me to do that – to help people, especially veterans, see that. I do not want to change the world; I just want to help it. The love of my life does not want to change the world either, but for sure wants to protect it. Something we both have been doing on one level or another since 1984, and continue to do through our work and our personal lives.
You Are Strong!’s logo symbolizes the five main branches of the military: The Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.
You Are Strong! has been a labor of love for me since 2007. As its founder, I harbored this vision and launched it on Veterans Day of 2011. My direct experience with 9/11 was a life changing experience for me. Not only was my hometown New York City savagely attacked, so was my then home of almost 20 years, Washington, DC, via the Pentagon – which is how I came to land in DC to begin with. I arrived at the Pentagon in 1986 on a special assignment with the Army and left shortly after 9/11. I am a military veteran who served first in the Air Force and then in the Army. I routinely took the train from the Pentagon station every morning to go to work in Washington, DC. That day was no different, except that I missed that fateful plane hitting the Pentagon by minutes. When I arrived in the city, mayhem had already started. I was stuck in the city for an entire day with no way back home. An airplane was circling and no one knew for sure where it was intending to hit. Luckily for DC it went to PA. Sadly not so lucky for them. That day I watched in horror and feeling soul-sick as my beloved NYC was falling apart, those twin towers I had grown up marveling at….and how the city I called home for years, DC, was in the midst of the most historically traumatizing event in its history. And there I was, stuck in the middle of both, watching it all unfold around her, feeling helpless and worried.
When I finally found someone that evening who was able to pick me up in his car and drive me through the state of MD just to get around the road barriers in DC, and the National Guard, and finally back into VA to go home, I saw the destruction of the Pentagon up close and personal. A giant hole on the side of a building I had identified with for so long. I could smell it all from my house because I only lived a few miles away. It was the single most horrifying day of my life. My family and friends could not reach me and I could not reach them. That night and for the next week or so I was running on adrenalin and in survival mode. Then it all hit me and I crashed hard. It changed me on so many levels that I will not get into here….but maybe one day I will talk about it in public more. Since then I have been driven and committed to do something worthwhile to give back to people who have, as a direct result of 9/11, given so much of themselves. Including the love of my life who I had met in basic training and was still serving in the military and was deployed to Iraq soon after 9/11. You Are Strong! was germinating within me as a special project close to my heart for years. I finally managed to put my vision and plans into a concrete venture and You Are Strong! was born…my true labor of love so close to my heart.
Veterans since 9/11 have steadily come back from either Afghanistan or Iraq with visible and invisible wounds. The love of my life was one of the first to have gone to Iraq, and I thank God every night before I go to sleep for her safe return. She was one of the lucky ones and it does not go unnoticed. The damage my 9/11 experience did to me was invisible and insidious. Yet it was nothing that can compare to the visible and invisible, and equally insidious, damage that our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans live with. It caught up to me and years later I finally did something about it and got the help I needed. I personally understand the vital importance of breaking out of denial and getting the help you need for invisible wounds. Now through You Are Strong! I hope to give that gift to all the veterans who need it and deserve it. In my heart I understood this question, “How do you help others if you are still struggling to help yourself”? So that’s what I did, I got help for myself and now I have the strength and the clarity to help them. In 2007 I was finally blessed with being able to have the love of my life safely in her world after decades of waiting. Having her return safely from Iraq was a blessing I do not take for granted. That was a turning point in my life. You Are Strong! became my private obsession and has remained so since then. I love an Iraq veteran who was able to retire safely from the armed forces, and now I want so many others in my position to have that opportunity as well.
Through You Are Strong! I hope to combat negative stigma and shine light on the integrative health and human services needs of veterans through advocacy and empower them to find and get the help they need and deserve with dignity. I believe that the timing is right. President Obama declared the end of our military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. We already have scores of veterans in need and more yet to come. This is our time to do and get what we deserve as veterans. Veterans are one of the most important members of our society and emerging in large numbers. Yet they are the least visible. I plan to change that – You Are Strong! is my avenue to do it!
May God bless all veterans and their families.
Xiomara A. Sosa
You Are Strong!
President, Chief Executive Officer, and Founder
You Are Strong! Center on Veterans Health and Human Services, Inc. (You Are Strong!)
For current information about You Are Strong! and about advocating for veterans, facilitating for veterans and their families, and research about veterans’ health and human services needs please visit You Are Strong! Facebook Page and “like” it at https://www.facebook.com/YouAreStrongCenteronVeteransHealthandHumanServices/
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