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NEWS | Feb. 26, 2013

Family, fitness and friendship: Army spouse leads the way in supporting military community

By Senior Airman Jason J. Brown 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

When Danielle Tenconi moved with her husband, then-U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Philip "Todd" Turner, to Germany on assignment, she shut herself away from the community, clinging to long-distance friendships with college buddies on the telephone and online. She struggled with her new, isolated life as a military spouse in a new place surrounded by people she didn't know. Grasping onto the comfortable and familiar strands of her past was all she had to keep her going.

Or, so she thought.

Todd's commander's wife reached out to Danielle, offering a voice of comfort and an ear to listen. Before long, Danielle came out of her shell, closed the video chat windows and saw the vast opportunities for her to do good in the military community she felt so uncertain about just months prior.

"I saw the things she was doing, like running a [family readiness group], being in touch with other spouses, how wonderful a role model she was, and suddenly my eyes were open to all the great things these spouses were doing all around. That was infectious to me, and that's when I got the bug to want to be like that," Danielle said. "I recognized how miserable I was when I shut myself away. When I started doing things for others, I saw the positive difference it made not only on me, but on my family and others, and I realized it was the right thing to be doing."

London-born Danielle changed her outlook, and became an anchor of positivity in the military community, dedicating her time and efforts to supporting her family - not only Todd and her 1-year-old Wyatt, but the "family" she has now found in the military spouses at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.

As a result of her tireless commitment to self-improvement and focus on her community, Danielle was named the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year for JBLE, and is now in the running to earn top honors at the Army-wide level.

Turner, now a captain and logistics officer assigned to the 688th Rapid Port Opening Element at Fort Eustis, nominated her for the award, and the community rallied behind her, voting for her in online polling.

She said she is "shocked" to have won such an honor, as she simply is doing what she feels is right.

Despite her humility, Danielle manages a vast set of professional and personal endeavors with great success. In addition to her service as an FRG leader at various levels, she started her own marketing consultancy business, providing guidance to firms around the world all from the comfort of wherever she calls home.

Danielle said one of the issues she works to raise awareness for is the increase in employment opportunities for military spouses.

"Our spouses offer a wealth of knowledge and talent, and a lot of times employers are hesitant to hire them because they will likely move within a few years, and sometimes with little notice," she said.
"It's challenging, and I want to improve that situation and get more spouses into the workforce."

Another way Danielle has reached out to the spouse community is through her love of yoga. While living in Italy as Todd deployed to Iraq, she discovered yoga as a way to stay physically and emotionally fit, and fell in love with its therapeutic benefits. She began practicing daily once the couple moved stateside to Fort Riley, Kan., and decided to train as instructor to share the benefits with Service members and fellow spouses.

"Yoga really kept me sane when Todd was deployed. Not only did it keep me in good shape physically, but mentally as well," she explained. "I want to specialize in yoga for military members, and increase understanding the benefits of yoga for sufferers of [post-traumatic stress disorder] and for military spouses.

"Studies show the meditative aspects of yoga and physical balance of mind and body to be effective in battling PTSD, depression and dealing with deployment stress," she continued. "As a spouse or a Service member, there are a number of barriers you never realize you'll face during a deployment. Yoga has been incredibly positive for me, and I want to build on that anyway I can to help others."

After nine years as a military spouse, Danielle strives to highlight the positives of the military lifestyle, breaking down negative stereotypes of military spouses and promoting unity with the surrounding civilian community.

"I make sure whenever I'm speaking to anyone, military or civilian, to focus on the positive, and not because I'm blind to the negatives, but to stress that military life and military spouses can be incredibly positive and contribute to the community," said Danielle. "When spouses first arrive at our unit, I try to make a good impression, find out their interests, and share the experiences I've had with them to continue the cycle of mentoring. I also make sure whenever we [permanent change of station] anywhere that I become part of the wider community as well. I try to be a positive individual and contribute."

"Danielle focuses on not shutting herself behind the walls of the base, but rather breaking down barriers and bringing the civilian and military communities together," Todd added.

Even with her demanding lifestyle, Danielle maintains her commitment to providing for and supporting her husband and young son remains paramount. She said the mutual support she receives from Todd, as well as the outpouring from her military community, makes it not only possible, but much easier.

"I want to do more here at JBLE, like bringing my professional experience to workshops, teaching yoga and helping new spouses, but I know that making sure my family is happy and well-supported, and that I'm supporting my husband as his career progresses and raising my son are the most important things in the world," she explained. "The support of my military community brings true motivation into my life.

"I'm honored to be named as military spouse of the year," she said, smiling. "But truly, all military spouses - the ones I know, the ones I've met, and those I may never meet - are deserving of that title."