Nominations are closed. Come back February 3 to meet the candidates!

Candace Haluska

Branch: Marine Corps

Duty Station: Naval Air Station Oceana Dam Neck Annex

Number of Deployments: 5

Number of PCS's: 8

Share your military spouse story:
I became a military spouse at the age of 19. For the first 6 months of my soon to be husbands career we wrote each other daily while he was attending Boot Camp, Marine Combat Training and Artillery School. We were married in December of 2005 and continued our life together, traveling to 8 duty stations, living in 9 houses, having 3 kids and 3 dogs along the way. In 2005 while stationed at Camp Lejeune North Carolina I continued to pursue my degree in Social Work, attending the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) and graduated in 2008. Not too long after graduating from UNCW my husband re-enlisted and we moved to Texas for a short 7 month Permanent Change of Station (PCS). While we were in Texas I worked as a Social Worker for a local Foster Care and Adoption Agency. I thoroughly enjoyed my job as a Social Worker as it gave me a unique opportunity to work within the local community and to serve the people of San Angelo. In 2009 we received orders to Okinawa Japan for a 3 year tour. Once in Japan I began to pursue other avenues to serve my local military community which included working as a substitute teacher and as a Yoga Instructor. In 2012 my husband received orders to attend Old Dominion University in Virginia as part of the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program (MECEP). While in Virginia I attended my first Stroller Warriors(a local run club) meet up. After attending I was hooked to the welcoming energy and instant community feeling the club offered. We moved to Hawaii in 2016 and while I was there I joined the local Stroller Warriors Kaneohe Bay(SWKB) , I enjoyed being part of a close-knit community that focused on uplifting everyone’s spirits and in 2017 I volunteered as the Chapter Coordinator and Yoga Coordinator for SWKB. In 2019 we moved back to Quantico Virginia for a year before moving down to Chesapeake Virginia in 2020. Along those 17 years we have made so many lasting memories we wouldn't trade for the world!

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
While my family and I were stationed in Hawaii I volunteered as the Chapter Coordinator for Stroller Warriors Kaneohe Bay Chapter. During that time period, I was able to help lead a team of volunteers in an effort to bring spouses together through localized workouts and numerous weekend volunteer events and participation in local runs on Oahu. I am a firm believer in activity and fitness and bringing military spouses and families together in order to promote overall health, fitness and community. Over the course of 2 years as the Chapter Coordinator I was able coordinate weekly workouts, organize volunteer events for local runs on the island of Oahu in order to further promote Stroller Warriors, organize numerous races, and coordinate volunteer events in order to help the local off-base community. I enjoy working with groups of like-minded individuals who are focused on lifting up their community both military and local in an effort to make the area a better place.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
From the beginning of my husband’s enlistment I was motivated to jump into volunteer work within our Marine Corps community. One of my first experiences with volunteer work within my husband’s unit was as a Key Volunteer. As a Key Volunteer we organized meet ups, kept spouses and family members informed with important information and built a supportive community during difficult times like deployments. When we PCS’d out to Japan, I was able to work alongside our units Family Readiness Officer(FRO) in order to organize events for the unit and their families. In 2016 we PCS’ed to Kaneohe Bay Hawaii where I took on the role of Yoga Coordinator and Chapter Coordinator for Stroller Warriors Kaneohe Bay(SWKB). In 2020 I took on the role of Chapter Coordinator for Stroller Warriors Virginia Beach. Every single duty station we have been to, I have found some way or another to make sure we are involved and believe that it is important to give back to a community that gives so much.

Describe how you support your community:
Around our four-year mark of being associated with the military I realized that in order to thrive in this lifestyle, community was of the utmost importance. I support my community by consistently sharing my time and by getting involved as quickly as possible once we arrive to a new duty station. From leading military spouses and their families on hikes, organizing spouses’ nights out, volunteering within our local base community, sharing my passion for yoga practice and teachings with those around me, to saving space for community members who may be going through tough times, I am in some way shape or form always supporting and standing with my community because they are at the core of my heart.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for the mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing of military spouses and their family members. I truly believe that in order to remain grounded in this lifestyle we must take care of ourselves. Whether this means asking for help, taking a yoga class, joining a running club, volunteering and/or putting ourselves out there to meet new friends, it is essential to know our self-worth is important and valued. Learning to value who we are at the core, as individuals, can propel us to heights we never thought possible. Allowing ourselves to jump into new opportunities and experiences can make a move to another country or duty station exciting and thrilling. Knowing that we are not alone as we navigate new beginnings and new friendships is important whenever we relocate. Simply having community members who reach out and encourage one another, can be a major mental shift for those that may be newer to the lifestyle. A sense of community is so important in our Military lifestyle.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I spread this message through my daily interactions with community members whether it is by phone, text, email or social media. Social media has been a great way for me to get creative in how I communicate with fellow military spouses and it has allowed me to spread encouragement, motivation and love to community members over the years. I work hard to attend conferences, meetings, webinars in order to share my story and to listen and learn from other members who are willing to share their stories and advice along the way.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I hope to continue to share my passion of fostering an environment that promotes the mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing of military spouses and their family members. I have personally witnessed how physical fitness and self-care can aid and support individuals in our community, from Improving mental health, releasing stress and anxiety and enhancing overall quality of life. I hope to support military establishments and their local communities by helping to provide easier access to physical fitness and self-care programs for military members and their families. Everything I’ve ever been able to be a part of in this lifestyle has humbled me and allowed me to better myself and family. If any ounce of what I share plants a seed of hope in someone, then I have accomplished everything. As one of my favorite Yogi Artists would say, “It only takes one spark, to light up the dark…” THANK YOU to all the other incredible Military Spouses out there and thank you for reading my profile!

Nominations

Candace is always happy to help another military spouse out and encourage them to get out and meet others. I first met her when she joined Stroller Warriors and agreed to volunteer to teach yoga to our members and later on accepted the offer to be a chapter coordinator at SW Kaneohe Bay. Whether it's motivating you to run a half marathon you didn't train for just for fun and makes it the most fun race you ever ran or cheering kids on to run like their parents and cross the finish line of their own race she does it all with a smile on her face. She always steps up to volunteer even though she is a busy mom of 3, supportive wife and business owner. When there was a need at her new duty station to lead Stroller Warriors Virginia Beach despite how busy she was she stepped up so the chapter would continue to thrive. She is constantly pushing herself and is honest about the hardships of military spouse life and how you don't have to do it alone.
- by Arlene Allen