Imagine a company that honors veterans and the families of military veterans by sharing their personal stories and providing wrist bands that are made from pieces of their uniform.
Amy Cotta, who lives in Franklin, Tenn. - a mother of six kids, is founder of Wearable Gratitude and Valor Bands and recently hired veteran Sgt. First Class Joseph James of Hendersonville, to help with operations.
James is a father of four and lost his legs in combat. During U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Joseph James’ tour in Iraq, his Humvee was struck by two improvised explosive devices (IEDs), leaving him without legs. Determined to not let his physical disability get the best of him, Joseph began volunteering in the community to raise awareness for veterans.
Cotta said that she couldn’t be happier going on this journey with this American hero whom she feels privileged to call a friend.
Cotta initially started up a nonprofit Memories of Honor in 2014. She had also stumbled upon a pair of her son Tyler’s JROTC pants and got the idea of repurposing a piece of the material to wear as “Valor Bands” on the wrist to celebrate the connection and keep him close at heart while he was serving in the USMC. That connection has morphed into the creation of Wearable Gratitude.
She recently hired James who has taken the reins with a vengeance and passion for bringing Wearable Gratitude to the front lines for reverent success.
James has moved up to Director of Veteran Outreach; and as board member of the nonprofit
“She said - you concentrate on growing the social enterprise and I’ll concentrate on growing the non-profit,” James said. “It’s all about storytelling and sharing the heroes. It also keeps uniforms out of landfills. It all affirms, honors and brings it all home.”
He said that Wearable Gratitude is designed to give back to vets and to the Gold Star community, with all products made by vets or their family members.
Gold Star families are those who have lost a loved in the military.
James is excited about opportunities to help homeless veterans by giving them a trade to learn and to get off the street.
“We want to see them transition into a workable and marketable skill,” he said. Those working as a seamstress or designer here could work elsewhere with a marketable skill.”
James said that the mission of Wearable Gratitude is to share stories and to honor our military and Gold Star team.
“It’s all about giving back and taking care of those who have sacrificed so much for our county,” he said, noting that he lost his legs in Iraq.
He noted that the company has partnerships locally that include the National Veterans Corporate Council and Yellow Ribbon Project.
“I wanted to find a niche where I could give back,” he said. “I want to make sure names of loved ones are never forgotten. There is also a healing aspect. Veterans have the chance or ability to share their stories when they felt they couldn’t talk about it.”
James said that the mission of Wearable Gratitude is a personal one for him.
“I lost good friends and mentors and leaders at war, and I lost my legs for my country,” he said. “So, all these people are my brothers and sisters. It’s all about what can we do for our family members. Everyone who served is my brother and sister.”
James said that he had four combat deployments in his eight years of service.
“Our goal is not to be rich and successful but affirming and respectful,” he said. “The more we grow, the more stories we have to share. We care. We’re here to empower, uplift, heal, affirm and connect. Give them a voice for telling their story. They tell their story the way they want. It’s my job to pass it along.”
There is even a children’s book that will be coming out soon that’s called “The Day I Met A Robot,” which tells the story of a child who meets a disabled veteran.
“My injury has opened more conversations than I ever had when I was able bodied,” James said. “I have a life with my four kids. I get to live another day in this amazing country with wonderful people, and I have served with the greatest people I’ve ever met in my life. I want to learn and be exposed to new experiences. I want to try myself.
“When you fail, you need to remember that it’s when you learn the greatest lessons. I love the challenge of running a business or running an obstacle course or leading my family. I will not give up just because I lost some appendages. I lost some legs. That doesn’t make the end of me; it makes a new me – a different me. A better me in many ways.”
James and Cotta invite readers to visit their Facebook Page, Instagram and website.