A veteran and her family will be dining at Carmine’s Times Square as part of a gift received on air. Find Carmine's Italian restaurants near me or play the video above to get the full story.
Interviewer: Time to celebrate our graduate with GMA’s class of 2017 and this morning, we have an incredible story of resilience. This graduate is a veteran in the military, she’s a mother of two who wanted to get a degree to create a better future for her children and she rediscovered her passion along the way. Meet her.
Danielle: Hi, I’m Danielle Joliet. Class of 2017 graduate at Penn State and this is my story. I kind of woke up one day like wanting a better life and for me, that was doing into the United States Army.
34-year old Danielle Joliet’s military career spanned a decade. Enlisting at the age of 17 to escape a troubled youth.
Danielle: My identity very much got wrapped up in alcohol and drugs and as I went into the army, I started to gain a little bit of confidence in the structure of the military and I really started to flourish and it was the first time that I saw that I could be a lot more.
But her struggles with substance abuse continued and then, she became pregnant at 18 with son, Randy. It was a wake-up call.
Danielle: And I knew when I would look at him that I had to do better.
And she did. Danielle deployed to Baghdad in 2008 but suffered an injury that ended her military career.
Danielle: When they first marked me out, I thought I was going to go back. Not being able to come home with my unit was painful.
Danielle met and married fellow soldier, Brandon, and together, they welcomed Patrick in 2011. A new chapter for her young family.
Danielle: When I look at my two kids, I want them to have access to an education, that’s why it was important for me to come back and get an education so they know what it looks like.
So, she chased her dream of a college degree, enrolled at Penn State University and thrived. Once again, finding structure in her life and discovering her passion for helping others especially her fellow veterans.
Danielle: We are still a representation of the men and the women that still serve and we bring honor to them by the service that we do as veterans.
Danielle was also an advocate for the Collegiate Recovery Community.
Danielle: Hearing how these students has overcome their addictions, that I learned how to maintain recovery in my own.
She was honored as a 2017 outstanding adult student.
Graduating with Student Marshall and with a 4.0 GPA.
Danielle: If the 17-year-old version of myself can see me today and someone told her that you will be graduating the top of your class at Penn State, I would have never believed it.
Soaring against great odds and her family could not be more proud.
Son 1: It’s definitely like super inspiring to go to college now that I know that my mother has done it.
Danielle: Give me a hug you.
Son 2: Group hug. Group hug.
Son 1: Awww. I love you.
Interviewer: I like it when the little one says group hug, group hug.
Interviewer: Please welcome Danielle. Danielle. My dad was a military prep so this really hit close to home, what you have been able to do. You just graduated on Sunday right?
Danielle: I did.
Interviewer: Well, what’s next?
Danielle: Well, wasting no time, I start grad school in a week, I’ve been hired on at the university as a collegiate recovery program assistant and I don’t plan to walk away from my veterans at all. I’ll remain a mentor to veterans that are transitioning.
Interviewer: And what does… ain’t that great what she’s doing? Because of the veterans, we can’t forget about them. How were you able to turn it around? We watched your story but to know the path that you were going down and you turned it around.
Danielle: The ability to reframe my story is a true gift and it’s just by grace and that grace came from looking at my family and knowing that they beloved in me so, I began to believe in myself.
Interviewer: Yeah, your family and part of your family’s right here. Oh, look at your son so proud of you and your hubby?
Interviewer: We’ll get a group hug after this just like how you asked before. What does it mean to you to model for your children to show them to never give up? You can reframe your life.
Danielle: I want those boys to know that the ability to reframe their story will always be there, that they can take what it negative and turn it into something positive and that there’s always a lesson to be learned.
Interviewer: Always a lesson to be learned. Don’t you like Broadway? Are you big into the different shows and stuff like that?
Son: Yes. I absolutely love acting and I love plays and it’s amazing.
Interviewer: Oh my goodness. Well, since you said that, you want your golden ticket, you’re going to go to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Four tickets. Come along. Come along up here, let the family come up here. So, you give this to your family, you got four tickets. Can we bring the beautiful roses? You know, Mother’s Day is coming up, come on up here both of you. You’re family. Come up. So, we’ve got the play to go to, it’s an afternoon show and then, we’re going to go to Carmine’s, we’re going to take you to Carmine’s to have a meal. It’s an early Mother’s Day gift.
Danielle: That’s amazing.
Interviewer: And again, I have to say thank you as my father was in the military, was a military brat, thank you for your service then, thank you for your service now. I appreciate it very much.
Danielle: Thank you.