The second annual Ms. Veteran America Pageant final competition was held 0ct. 13 at The National Conference Center in Leesburg, Va. Master Sgt. Denyse Gordon relinquished her title and crown to Army veteran Allaina Guitron, Ms. Veteran America 2013.
Gordon took her last walk as the first Ms. Veteran America escorted by Carlton Kent, 16th Sgt. Major of the Marine Corps, and reflected on her tenure as Ms. Veteran America 2012.
“My year of service is officially over, but I will always remember the women that I started this journey with. I first thank my Lord, because I am here for a reason,” said Gordon. “With his guidance in ordering my steps I walk the path that was set out for me.”
Gordon then lauded Jas Boothe, President and Founder of Final Salute Inc. for her support for homeless female veterans.
“Jas started Final Salute Inc. because you saw a need and took the initiative to do something about it. Your bravery, tenacity and compassion to help your sisters in need trump your own. What you visualized has manifested itself in a way that’s both amazing and inspirational,” said Gordon. “The women and the children you have helped I task them to pay forward and know that your service is not in vain. The notion that you also dream of better things led you to create Ms. Veteran America. And what a year it has been.”
After Gordon’s speech, the finalists left the stage while judges calculated their scores based on the contestant’s interview, talent, military history and advocacy. The scoring criteria included grace, poise, confidence and personality. Guest entertainer Ricky Lee, country artist, paid tribute to the courage of female veterans with a song.
Retired Air Force Brigadier Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, President, Women’s Memorial Foundation, took center stage as the first of several award presenters to address the audience.
“I will make sure that we will register every single veteran in this competition,” said Vaught. “and I will register Tara Brown as well,” referring to Master Sgt. Tara Brown Jacobs, NCOIC, client support technician, Directorate of Personnel, Headquarters, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Joint Base Andrews, who was killed in a hail of gunfire while on duty in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2011. The crowd applauded thunderously to the kind gesture.
Denyse Gordon, 2012 Ms. Veteran American and Col. Justin Constantine, USMC Inspirational speaker, announced the winner of the competition.
“And the winner is… Allaina Guitron,” said Gordon, bringing the room of family, friends and sisters in service to a standing ovation as Gordon relinquished her title and crown to the newly selected 2013 Ms. Veteran American.
Guitron, an Army veteran, was selected from among 19 finalists. Ricky Lee honored the new Ms Veteran American with a song.
Guitron was then presented a $15,000 check. The prize can be used toward the purchase of a vehicle; education for herself, her children or grandchildren; student loan repayment (in good standing); full scholarship to Paul Mitchell Beauty and Cosmetology School; starting her own business; as a down payment toward a home purchase or for home repairs.
The goal of the Ms. Veteran America program, hosted by Final Salute, Inc., is to showcase “the woman beyond the uniform” and demonstrate that a woman’s natural grace and talents aren’t lost when she volunteers for military service.
Over the next year, Guitron will serve as the official Ms. Veteran America spokesperson, appear at community events nationwide, and advance Final Salute Inc.’s efforts to assist homeless female veterans and their children. This year, approximately $42,000 was raised in donations to Final Salute Inc. to support housing for homeless female veterans and their children. Final Salute Inc. estimates there are more than 13,000 homeless female veterans in the U.S.
To compete in the Ms. Veteran America pageant, contestants must be a veteran or still serving in the U.S. military. For more information visit http://msveteranamerica.org.