The nation’s largest veterans organization is sponsoring 50 members of the Utah National Guard and Army Reserve to attend the 2008 Miss America Pageant, an event which will include their comrade, Sgt. Jill Stevens.“The American Legion doesn’t endorse any candidate in the competition,” said National Commander Marty Conatser. “This is a morale-booster for the men and women who serve with Sgt. Stevens, who also happens to be Miss Utah. Miss America participants have done great things for this country. In fact, The American Legion worked closely with former Miss America Heather French (2000), when she dedicated her entire year to veterans causes. Sgt. Stevens, like so many in today’s military, is an intelligent and talented patriot. By all accounts, she is an outstanding representative of both the Army and the state of Utah.”Stevens, a combat medic with the Utah National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 211 Aviation Regiment, spent a year in Afghanistan and is believed to be the first combat veteran to participate in the Miss America Pageant.“As a soldier, you have to learn to prioritize, multi-task, and handle yourself in stressful situations to prepare for any situation/combat zone,” Stevens wrote in a blog on the U.S. Army’s web site. “I just had no idea that this would come as such a huge asset to my preparations for the upcoming competition. In Basic Training, soldiers have to adapt to any situation, especially when it comes to getting your gear together quickly. I found myself changing as quickly as possible into my many different ‘uniforms’ yesterday so they can be fitted properly and ‘adapt’ to any situation that I may face in the upcoming weeks of competition. My leadership skills that I have learned as a soldier have really helped.”The competition, which will be held at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, will be televised live on TLC at 8 pm Eastern Time, January 26.
The Miss America Organization is one of the nation's leading achievement programs and the world's largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women. Each year, the Miss America Organization makes available more than $45 million in cash and tuition scholarship assistance. The program exists to give young women a vehicle to further their personal and professional goals, while providing a forum in which they can express their talents, intelligence and opinions on culture, politics and the community.With a current membership of 2.7-million wartime veterans, The American Legion, www.legion.org, was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and patriotic youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through more than 14,000 posts across the nation.
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