In two days here in Northern Virginia, twenty ladies will take the stage to compete in the second annual Ms Veteran America Pageant. These ladies, covering all branches, will be representing female veterans everywhere. They will be trading their uniforms for ballgowns, to show that they are not only strong service members, but graceful and confident women. Last years winner, Denyse Gordon, will be joined by other special guests – Jas Booth, an Army Veteran and 2013 CNN Hero; Vernice “Flygirl” Armour, the first African-American Female Combat Pilot and Michele Jones, the first woman Command Sergeant Major of the Army Reserve.
The pageant has chosen as the beneficiary of this year’s pageant, and one of the focuses of the 2012 Ms. Veteran America, is Female Veteran homelessness. Final Salute, Inc is the chosen organization, which was founded by Jas Booth in November of 2010. According to the VA’s 2012 Women Veterans Action Report, “While the overall number of homeless Veterans is declining, the number of homeless women Veterans is increasing. Women Veterans are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population and are at a higher risk of homelessness than their male counterparts.” Having been in that very situation herself, Booth, knew that those statistics were simply unacceptable. Factors for homelessness include issues of PTS and depression, which are seen more often in female veterans seeing help, according to the action report, but also physical injuries. “IEDs don’t discriminate,” Booth said, “and neither should we.” This whole idea of women not being in combat is ridiculous, at least on this front. Women travel armed in Humvees, they are IN combat. Booth, an Army Veteran and CNN 2013 hero, has experienced so much her life. She is also a mother, cancer survivor and Katrina survivor. After she found herself facing the very real possibility of homelessness, the seed that would become Final Salute Inc was planted. Finale Salute was created to meet a need that just wasn’t being met, and was barely acknowledged. Women have been serving since the Revolutionary War, but programs that specifically address issues of female veterans, or just make a point of acknowledging female veterans, are extremely lacking. Final Salute seeks to meet those women right where they are, by providing valuable support, financial assistance, as well as transitional housing.
I urge to read more about Jas Booth, Denyse Gordon and the others involved in the Ms Veteran American Pageant. You will also be able to watch the event, as it will be streaming live, via LiveStream!