Competing for Ms. Veteran America

  • Published
  • By Mike Joseph
  • Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Public Affairs
At the 322nd Training Squadron, she's a master military training instructor at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Away from the squadron, she's the mother of a 1-year-old little boy.

At work, she's disciplined, and tough, and her voice can be heard loud and clear from one end of the drill pad to the other. At home, she lets her long hair down, loves Latin dances and drives a pickup truck while jamming to country music.

The contrasting personalities pulled at Staff Sgt. Kimberly Miller when she opened an email last spring informing her about the Ms. Veteran America contest. The MTI in her thought, "Nah, it sounds kind of silly." But instead of hitting delete, the competitive side thought, "Let me think about this." The competitive side won out, having Miller join the more than 200 women to enter the inaugural Ms. Veteran America competition. 

Miller ended up being one of 40 selected from the five service branches who competed earlier this month in the Ms. Veteran America contest at Pentagon City, Va., after advancing from regional competition.

Founded by Final Salute, which fights homelessness among female veterans, the women competed in evening wear, talent, interview and military history categories. It gave competitors a chance to regain their femininity, which is often camouflaged during military service.

Miller finished in the top 10, and won the Above and Beyond Award. The award was given to a contestant for significant military achievement.

"It was the most 'military' award you could win," she said. "It meant so much to me. Winning that award made competing worthwhile."

But one word nearly kept Miller from entering after reading the initial Ms. Veteran America email.

"'Pageant' was the word that almost put me off," she said. "I thought about it a few days, looked at the email again, and then decided I'd find out more information.

After reading up on the requirements and competition categories, Miller warmed up to the idea of giving it a try.

"I found the competition was about showcasing the woman behind the uniform," she added, "how even a strong female person in the military could have a feminine side."

Once the Iowa native made up her mind to enter, she was all in.

Miller registered for regional competition in Austin, Texas, which was subsequently canceled and opened to mail-in videos. Included in her regional video package was a Latin dance as her talent, original paintings and photography.

"I wanted to show them I have several talents," she said.

Surprised to be among the top 50 from around the United States who were invited to compete in Arlington, Va., Miller had to change her talent portion of the contest from dancing to singing three weeks before the trip when her dance partner couldn't attend.

Between instructing a flight of trainees and her home life, Miller's only time to practice the song "Never Alone" by Lady Antebellum was to and from Lackland. Any other spare time was spent studying military history.

"It was a 15-minute commute, so I could sing it three times to work and three times home," she said. "That was pretty much the only time I had."

Miller said the contest was a positive experience. It was a chance to dress up, meet women from other service branches and help raise awareness and money for Final Salute.

It was also an opportunity for Miller to show another side of her personality certainly not seen around the 322nd TRS, where she's a disciplined teacher, mentor and trainer.

"I'm very outgoing and a jokester," she said, which is the complete opposite of her role as the most seasoned instructor in the squadron. "But I am dedicated to being an NCO and doing what is required to turn young men and women into quality warrior Airmen."