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Yvonne Zdanowski

Branch: Air Force

Duty Station: Ramstein Air Base

Number of Deployments: 0

Number of PCS's: 2

Share your military spouse story:
My military story begins in 2013, when I met my now husband while he was stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. As a German national, leaving my family, friends and career, that I had worked so hard for, at the age of 35 was both terrifying and exhilarating. Diving head first into this new adventure opened new opportunities to grow personally and professionally. As a Key Spouse, I engaged with base and community helping networks, sparking my passion for spouse resilience. Military spouses lean on each other during important life events and difficult times. These experiences led to my decision in becoming a Resilience Trainer. I teach coping skills to help overcome and grow through daily stresses. Phrases like "You signed up for this" or "You knew what you were getting into" are simply not true. Military life is an adventure for sure. You have to adapt to it and find out what works for you and your family. To do so, is a process. Military spouses are strong, independent individuals who know that community can be a lifesaver and give you a feeling of belonging. My family is the key to my resilience. Paul and I have two wonderful children, Emma (5) and Bobby (2). Their resilience is incredible. It motivates me to preserve through frequent change and inspires me to continually seek new experiences. We are currently stationed back at Ramstein AB, Germany. I am working part time for the Federal Employment Services as a Team Leader and enjoy volunteering and working on new projects to serve and support our military and local community.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
In 2018, I successfully launched Stroller Warriors Keesler, a running club for military spouses. As chapter coordinator, I'm proud to have led 125 workouts, four community events, and 5,000 combined miles ran. In 2019, I became certified as a Master Resilience Trainer. Since then, I have offered in person and virtual Resilience Trainings for military spouses. In January 2021, I launched a facebook group for certified military spouse resilience trainers worldwide. My goal is to grow a platform for spouses who are passionate about resilience and teaching skills to others, motivate each other and share best practices. The group has currently 170 members and growing. I am a connector at heart. Building platforms and spaces for spouses to connect, grow and support one another is my passion, which is why I am leading monthly small group meetings, where we talk about different topics and connect. I am also a Girl Scout leader for my daughter's Daisy Troop.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I have been a Key Spouse for four years and love supporting spouses and military members. I am so proud to be a part of such a powerful community. I am a registered USO volunteer, and had the incredible opportunity to work alongside wonderful volunteers during Operation Allies Refuge/Operation Allies Welcome here at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Being a part of this historic event was both, incredibly rewarding and humbling. I also plan and organize resilience workshops for spouses and host a monthly small group discussion in partnership with the USO. I am the regional Giving Tuesday Military Ambassador and recently organized a base wide event in November 2021, handing out over 500 gift cards to our wonderful military community and promoting the "Pay it forward" mantra. It was a huge success. I am a Girl Scout leader for my daughter's Daisy Troop. Working with our wonderful Daisies is incredibly rewarding. I can't wait to go camping with them soon!

Describe how you support your community:
I believe that right now, during a pandemic, it is more important than ever to connect, reach out, and invite everyone to have a seat at the table (even though it might just be a virtual table for right now). Military spouses often believe they are alone with what they are feeling and experiencing. I am here to tell them that they are not alone. We are in this together, here to support one another and cheer each other on when reaching our goals. By offering resilience workshops and small group discussions with content created by the fantastic Brittany Boccher and in partnership with the USO, I am building platforms for connection and growth. To me, it is the best feeling when someone shares their story and everyone else in the room is nodding with a smile that says "Yes, I hear you". I believe it takes a military spouse to truly see a military spouse. I am an advocate for taking the next step NOW, instead of waiting for retirement or moving to the next duty station.

What do you advocate for? Why?
Military spouse & family resilience is my passion. I believe in the power of community and connection. I turned to resiliency when I moved away with my service member for the very first time. What was meant to help me navigate through all the changes, led me to being an advocate for other military spouses to live their best possible life, overcome challenges and take the next step. At previous bases I have heard spouses say "There is nothing to do here. I can't wait until we leave again." Hearing someone say this made me sad. I believe with each new place, there is always a chance. To try something new, keep working towards your goals, or simply exploring this new place. The other day I heard this quote by the author James Clear and I love it so much that I would like to share it with you all "You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems." This is so powerful. We can make this choice everyday.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I am a connector. I love meeting new people and listening to their story. Everyone has such a unique story to tell, and I am here for it. Learning and understanding people's goals and values is very important to me. Building networks is an outstanding benefit to meeting and advocating for others. It is such a great feeling to bring an idea to life with the help of fantastic people from your network and sponsors. I love it! In my role as a Master Resilience Trainer, I have been invited to speak at the 2021 USAFE Director's Offsite and most recently the United States Air Force in Europe "Commander, Command Chief and spouse conference". I shared the information and feedback received from these key leaders to fellow spouses during the inaugural Military Spouse Leadership Program sponsored by the Military Spouse Advocacy Network.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I thrive on connection through storytelling, building resilience and restore the well-being of others, especially other military spouses. With the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title, I would love to grow my platform and possibly create a workshop tailored to military spouses. I'd love to talk about the power of community, hopes and dreams, but also the challenges that come with this significant lifestyle and teach skills to help overcome and grow through the daily stresses. I want military spouses to live their best life possible, before, during and after the military.


Yvonne is a military spouse who has not allowed being stationed overseas to hinder her ability to connect and serve. She is one of the most giving, engaged, and thoughtful individuals I have met. Yvonne is a dedicated volunteer supporting not only the USO but also as a leader, coordinator, and facilitator of the Discovering Your Spark program. She is bringing opportunities of connection to military spouses based overseas who are desperate for connection and community. Her leadership has resulted in the development of a small group that meets regularly to cover self growth and development topics that will help military spouses discover who they are and help them live with a bit more purpose! Yvonne definitely deserves the recognition of this award and would represent the program in the best way possible.
- by Brittany Boccher