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First Coast YMCA's Operation Strong and Ready Empowers Clay County’s Military and Veterans Community

Renee Flores, First Coast YMCA Personal Trainer
Posted 6/6/24

The Dye Clay Family YMCA has always been a cornerstone of community and wellness in Clay County. Now, it has further cemented its role with the launch of Operation Strong and Ready (OSR), a unique …

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First Coast YMCA's Operation Strong and Ready Empowers Clay County’s Military and Veterans Community


Posted

The Dye Clay Family YMCA has always been a cornerstone of community and wellness in Clay County. Now, it has further cemented its role with the launch of Operation Strong and Ready (OSR), a unique program tailored to support active-duty military and veterans. As Clay County continues to grow, the Ys commitment to meeting the needs of the community remains unwavering, especially for those who have served our nation. 

Operation Strong and Ready began its first session in March, bringing together a diverse group of service members and veterans. Among them is Suzanne Love, a Navy veteran who also served with the Marine Corps and the Army. Suzanne shared her journey, reflecting on how the program helped her navigate a difficult period of isolation following the loss of her dog.  

"The OSR program gave me the structure and confidence I needed," she said. "It helped me meet great people and feel more connected to my community." 

Joseph Smith, a veteran of both the Air Force and Army, shares Suzanne’s sentiments. He discovered OSR while on vacation and was immediately drawn to the program’s promise of camaraderie and community.  

"Mentally and physically, the program has been transformative," he explained. "It brought back that sense of belonging that you have in the military, something that often feels lost once you leave service." 

The program offers more than just physical fitness. It provides holistic well-being by incorporating educational sessions on nutrition and mental health. From intense rope workouts to resistance band exercises, we hope that every participant, regardless of their physical capabilities, feels included and challenged. 

The ultimate goal is to foster a sense of community and support. We want our participants to feel valued and understood, knowing there are resources and people who care about them. 

The impact of OSR extends beyond the eight-week program. The cohort has formed lasting bonds, often meeting before and after sessions to continue their workouts and support each other. This sense of community is vital in a place like Clay County, where the military presence is strong but can sometimes feel fragmented. 

For those considering joining, both Suzanne and Joseph have encouraging words.  

"Fear keeps you behind," Suzanne advises. "You’ll never get to where you need to be if you don’t take that first step."  

Joseph suggests coming in with an open mind.  

"There's no pressure," he says. "Once you find out what the program is really about, any apprehension will be gone." 

The Y's vision for the program’s future is optimistic. With plans to expand the next session to accommodate more service members, we're eager to continue building on the success of this initial cohort. They’ve only just begun. The more people that can be reached, the stronger the community will become. 

In a rapidly expanding county, programs like OSR are essential. It’s one of several programs that the First Coast YMCA offers. They not only address the physical and emotional need, but also bridge gaps within the community, creating a supportive environment where everyone feels they belong.