PUYALLUP – From green berets to sash and crown, military women are proving there are no limits too high, no trenches too deep and no barrier too wide – girls can shoot guns and soldiers can be queens.
Military women are so much more than the uniform they proudly wear – they are wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, givers, doers, leaders, and yes, even queens.
To date there have been eight Ms. Veteran America queens, and other pageants have been infiltrated with strong, brave, selfless women who not only competed but took prestigious titles in the Miss USA and Miss America Pageants – proving that beauty and beast mode (as Marshawn Lynch would say) are not mutually exclusive.
Cultural norms create a lot of stereotypes about the ideal warrior, one must be both mentally and physically tough. America’s conception of what a veteran looks like; a woman in a military uniform wearing a crown would never come to mind.
Yet, hundreds of women compete every year in the Ms. Veteran America Competition. This year a local Puyallup woman is preparing for the big competition as Shellie Willis is a finalist for the crown of Ms. Veteran America.
The Ms. Veteran America Competition showcases the woman beyond the uniform.
Willis, a wife and working mother of two, is a 25-year Army Veteran, who served as a drill sergeant, a financial manager and deployed in support of Desert Storm/Desert Shield, Operations Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
“To impact young impressionable lives, was the best opportunity. If I could impact one life from my platoon, then it was a job well done,” Willis said. “I wanted to be the best example I could be for anyone who was entering the military. I wanted to set a good example of leadership for my troops to emulate after they left my charge.”
Setting a good example for other women Veterans is still a passion of Willis.
She left the army in 2013 and now works as Director of Quality Assurance and Military Initiatives for WorkForce Central. She founded Redefining You Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports and empowers transitioning service women, women veterans, and military spouses to redefine their lifestyles and perspectives following military service.
Willis sits on the Board of Directors for HarborStone Credit Union and recently, co-founded an all-women speaking event called Shero Talk. Every single aspect of her life is rooted in selfless service.
Evelyn Tuiaana, who is the Director of Operations at Redefining You Foundation, said that Shellie has been a consistent encouragement for women- both in and out of the uniform.
“Shellie is a vivacious and infectious woman, who cares deeply for others,” said Tuiaana. “She is the perfect representation and spokeswoman for female Veterans.”
“I want to be able to give our women veterans a louder voice. It’s one thing to advocate and be an ambassador. It’s another thing to amplify and galvanize voices,” said Willis. “To educate and inform people about what we do as women and who we are as women who served would be a great honor.”
Women have always volunteered to serve, the sacrifices made by women who are wives, daughters, sisters, mothers for their military service are impactful. This is just one more way women Veterans prove that they are beautiful and strong; they are queens ready for any battle.
MS. VETERAN AMERICA 2020 FINALIST COMPETITION PAGE
Learn more about Final Salute Inc at www.finalsaluteinc.org
Learn more about Ms. Veteran America at \www.msveteranamerica.org