Sergeant Theresa Vail Fights with Femininity as Miss Kansas

Theresa Vail holding Miss Kansas tiara while in Army uniform

Theresa Vail is blonde, beautiful... and an expert marksman on the M16.

Recently celebrating her 23rd birthday, the Kansas Army National Guardsman represented her home state in the 93rd Annual Miss America Pageant. She placed in the top 10 at the competition held September 15, 2013 in Atlantic City, NJ and was crowned "America's Choice" by online voters.

She is the second active duty military member to participate in the pageant. The first was Miss Utah in 2007, who was in the Army National Guard, according to People Magazine.

Vail joined the Army at age 17 following her father's 33-year career as a dentist in the Army. "He had so much pride and I knew I wanted to do the same thing," she told Fox News. "He always told us the motto, ‘others before self,' so that's what we live for. We live to serve other people."

Originally from Manhattan, KS, Vail is a senior at Kansas State University double-majoring in Chemistry and Chinese with an impressive 3.8 GPA. She graduated with Distinguished Honors from both the Army Schools of Ordnance and of Health Sciences and consistently won the physical fitness award. Her goal: to become a dentist like her father. With eight siblings, she is an avid bowhunter and is working toward a private pilot's license.

And if that doesn't keep her resume busy enough, she recently reenlisted for another six years.

Vail with her father, who served in the Army for 33 yearsTheresa Vail with her father, who served in the Army for 33 years
The military influence is so significant in her life that she bears a tattoo of the military medical insignia on her left shoulder. "Since I was a child, God placed a strong passion for service into my heart. Service to my Country, and service to people through medicine. In the middle of this symbol is the letter ‘D' to represent my dad," she explained on her blog titled, "Miss Outdoor Girl."

That and the Serenity Prayer inked down the right side of her torso marked much of her publicity surrounding the Miss America Pageant. Weeks before the finals she blogged to announce that her tattoos would be visible during the swimsuit competition. She was the first contestant to boldly show off what some view as signs of harshness in a hyper-feminine competition (many past contenders have had tattoos but chose to cover them on camera). She proudly personified her platform: Empowering Women -- Overcoming Stereotypes and Breaking Barriers.

"Currently, women make up 14.6% of the military. Why so low? It isn't because women are less capable, but because we have been taught that the military is for men," Vail explained in her platform statement. "This is not because we are incapable but because we may not even consider such a career due to societal stereotypes."

The Miss America Organization has a long history of supporting the armed forces. On October 4, Miss America winner Nina Davuluri made her first military appearance at the USO's 10th Annual Stars and Stripes Night Gala, which raised $145,000 for military programs.

Vail had full support from the Army while competing. "The military has been my number 1 supporter through all of this," she wrote on her blog. In fact, it was a fellow soldier that inspired Vail to enter the pageant. With a proven record of leadership and service, she sought opportunities to expand her reach and voice. She won her state title on June 8, 2013 after winning Miss Leavenworth County and moved on to fight in the finals. Over twelve thousand women participate annually in similar local and state events.

"I certainly wouldn't be Miss Kansas without my military experience," Vail said in an interview with "I attribute every positive quality I have to my dad or the military. My leadership, my public speaking ability, my diligence, I credit all of that to being in the military."

Image Credit: Theresa Vail via

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