Strength in Diversity: Air Force brat turns Army spouse
May 5, 2010
SCHWEINFURT, Germany - Growing up, Yolanda Denman was your average child. Well, your average military child.
"I was raised partially in Spain as well as in Italy, Maine, Montana and so many other places," Denman said. "I went to many different schools and when my dad retired from the Air Force we settled in Spain."
Eventually, her dad took a job as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Campbell, Ky. Denman decided to move with her family and attend nearby Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn. Little did she know this would lead to her future as an Army spouse.
We're college sweethearts, she said of her husband, Col. Patrick Denman.
"I was pledging a sorority and I was in the university center with some friends when he saw me go by," Denman said. "He sent me the nicest card. It said 'hey, my name is Patrick and I'd like to invite you out for dinner.' He brought flowers. The rest is history."
Twenty years later, Denman finds herself living in Schweinfurt, Germany, married to the commander of the Schweinfurt Health Clinic. She is her husband's right-hand woman, a member of the Patient and Family-Centered Care committee and the family readiness group leader for the Schweinfurt Health Clinic.
"I like to think the Army Medical Department is one of the most diverse organizations in the Army," she said. "Just think of some of the education levels - high school, college, post graduate, - and skills - licensed providers, nurses and medics. In our clinic alone, we are Hindus, Muslims and Christians. I am honored to be a small part of such a great team and for me to represent our families is important. I take it very seriously."
She remembers how it was for her mother as an Air Force spouse. Her mother is from Spain and had to learn English. Denman grew up, as so many military children do, speaking two languages. Her mother was also a military spouse during the Vietnam War.
"We've come a long way in terms of what we do for our families," said Denman. "Families today have a voice. My mother didn't quite have the same experience. But it's forever changing and I hope that tomorrow will be better for future spouses."
Denman said one of the biggest perks of being an Army spouse is the travel. Denman has lived in many parts of the world including tours in Korea, Europe and the United States. You get to see different cultures and it makes you a stronger person, she said. Even the places she didn't love so much had something special to offer.
"The Army leads you to many interesting things," Denman said. "Some years ago I had an opportunity to work for the Royal Saudi Arabian Land Forces while at Fort Knox. I was an executive administrator and learned a lot about the Saudi culture. I even got to drive an Abrams tank."
Although the lifestyle she chose of packing up and making new friends every couple of years is not one she thinks many non-military people are familiar with, it's one she said she wouldn't trade.
"I feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of the military all of my life. I've had an opportunity to make friends from so many backgrounds, and learn so much, it's just fantastic. When I compare myself to people who haven't been in the military, they may really have to seek out diversity," Denman said. "In the Army, it's the standard. It's the benchmark of our success. It's who we are."