This is an open letter to my divine angel, the woman who saved me: Lisa Hoff at Nation’s Finest. Words cannot encompass all that she does, all that she is, and all her existence brings.

May 2022 changed my life, but I guess I should start from the beginning. I was born and raised in Napa, California, to an immigrant family. My father was deported to Mexico when I was five and my mother struggled with drug addiction and alcohol abuse, so I was in and out of the foster care system until the age of 17. That’s when I decided to join the U.S. Army.

Transitioning Into and Out of the Military

The military gave me a completely new perspective on life and what I am capable of. It also helped me further my education and give back to communities where I’ve lived. The military taught me self-discipline, tenacity, selflessness, how to adapt and overcome, and how to learn from the experiences of others.

However, the stability of being in service only lasted so long. I served at Fort Eustis, Virginia, from 2014-2018. When I completed my contract, I moved home to fulfill family obligations. I found myself lacking the basic human resources I needed just to survive. During this time, I was also a victim of domestic abuse and ended up living in my car because I lost my housing.

In May 2022, I was going on year two of living in my Subaru Outback. I was commuting, pursuing a degree in Psychology, working part-time in hospitality, and still tending to family responsibilities. My undergrad program became so rigorous that I wasn’t able to work or look after my well-being. I felt lost, confused, and lonely — like I was trapped in a long tunnel, wondering what was on the other side and whether I even had a chance at getting out.

There were few resources given to me when I transitioned out of the military. I was heartbroken over the systemic, limited access to care and resources that so many veterans struggle with.

Discovering Lisa at Nation’s Finest

However, at my lowest point and by the grace of God, I found you.

The day after I called Nation’s Finest, you met me in the Oxbow parking lot where I was living in my car. You had so much warmth and compassion. For the first time in my life, someone had seen me. YOU saw me.

You held such a safe and non-judgmental space for me. You continue to push me, and push, and push, and push, until I somehow know I will make it to the other side. When I hit rock bottom, yours was the hand that assured me there was no darkness I would ever meet alone.

Through everything — the long pauses, the times I wouldn’t let myself give in to the sobbing and incoherent emotional moments — you stuck with me. You listened, you understood, you cared. You completely changed my perception of humanity. You have been such a light in my chaotic and dark world. You changed my mind about the way I viewed asking for help, as well as the way I looked at myself. Thank you for sticking with me through it all. Thank you for fighting for me. Thank you for being one of the only solid and consistent things in my life.

Thanks to you, I’m ready to turn this pain into a masterpiece. Thank you for aiding a new beginning of my life; you changed my future forever. When I had nothing to believe in, you believed in me.

Thank you for helping me see past the pain I thought would blind me. You didn’t have to dismantle my walls. Instead, you made me feel safe enough to tear them down myself so that I could meet you on the other side. I didn’t know that could happen. Your words were the tourniquet that stopped me from bleeding out over and over again. Everything was hurting and ugly and raw, but there you were with your bright smile. You met me with fierce love and humility.

Lessons Learned

I feel so much gratitude because the life I’ve built for myself — a joyful and wild adventure — was made possible by the tools you gave to me. I feel gratitude because there’s no thread of my life you haven’t touched and, together, we spun into gold.

The mosaic of lessons I’ve learned are a compass I will keep close — a true north that will always point me back to the direction of hope restored. Lessons like:

  • It’s bravery, not perfection, that makes the world a better place.
  • It’s self-compassion, not discipline, that helps us grow.
  • It’s vulnerability, not just grit, that makes us stronger.
  • It’s the doing, the moving, and the growing — not the “finished,” “there,” and “done” — that makes for a meaningful life.

Looking back, I understand now that I didn’t need to be fixed or reassembled. I wasn’t broken; I wasn’t a mistake. All I really needed was to be seen. Thank you for seeing me.

Take these words, not as payment for a debt owed, but as proof of the flowers you helped me grow. You gave me a priceless gift I could never repay. You gave me new life, love, and something to hold onto. And with all of that, someday I hope to return some version of the strength I borrowed from you.

Until then, thank you. Thank you for being who you’ve been to me. Thank you for being. Thank you, for you.

Note: This letter was written by Sophia, an Army Veteran from the Napa, California area. Nation’s Finest assisted Sophia by helping her find affordable housing and by providing resources such as rental assistance and case management. We are proud of this Veteran for her hard work and persistence with improving her circumstances, as well as the compassion and quality of care shown by her case manager, Lisa Hoff.

Do you, or does a veteran you know, need help with housing, health, employment, or other forms of support? Contact Nation’s Finest at 1-833-468-9676 or view our list of locations to find a service center near you.