Theodore's World: Miss Utah Gives Back as National Guard Soldier

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November 01, 2007

Miss Utah Gives Back as National Guard Soldier

Miss Utah- Sgt. Jill Stevens

Sgt. Jill Stevens, Utah National Guard member and the 2007 Miss Utah, smiles after crossing the finish line at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., Oct. 28, 2007. Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary K. Flynn, USA

Miss Utah Gives Back as National Guard Soldier
By Staff Sgt. Mary Flynn, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

The 2007 Miss Utah is no stranger to the physical and mental discipline required to knock out 26.2 miles. She ran the Marine Corps Marathon here on Oct. 28, finishing in about 3.5 hours.

It’s the third marathon she’s run since winning the pageant title in June. “I love challenges,” she said. “That’s why I joined the military.”

No, that’s not a misprint. For one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer, Miss Utah becomes Army Sgt. Jill Stevens of the Utah National Guard. She trades in her high heels and gown for combat boots and combat uniforms, her bouquet of roses for a combat medic aid bag, and her sparkling tiara for a beret or patrol cap.

Wearing the uniform, she said, feels more natural to her. “I’m first-off a soldier, always,” said Stevens, who had originally laughed at the idea of participating in a pageant. “I don’t do heels. I didn’t even know where to buy them!”

Having deployed as a combat medic with 1st Battalion, 211th Aviation Group, in April 2004 to Afghanistan, Steven’s lifestyle isn’t what one would expect of the typical pageant winner.

The 25-year-old previously shared the same opinion of pageant contestants that many people hold. “I thought that all these girls do is wave their hand, look pretty and do nothing,” she said. “I didn’t want to be associated with that.”
She soon discovered, however, that the organization actually had a lot in common with the military. The Miss America program promotes education and teaches leadership, she said. It also promotes fitness and well-being, while focusing on bringing out one’s best.
“I saw a great opportunity that would open doors,” she said, referring to the titleholder’s position as a chance to start organizations or pass bills to create change. “(These women) can move people to action and really make a difference.”

One way Stevens has chosen to make a difference is by raising funds and awareness for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a support network for families of those who have died in service. TAPS offers peer support and assists survivors through a wide variety of programs, including programs for youths.

“I’m running for my battle buddies and their families, people who have lost loved ones over there,” she said.
While in Washington for the marathon, Stevens met with families and visited soldiers recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. “I thought of them along this run,” she said. “I’m doing this for them.”
Stevens said she intends to participate in more marathons before her reign as Miss Utah is over. In each one, she will run for TAPS.
Stevens was first exposed to the National Guard when recruiters set up a booth in her high school. Beyond the tuition assistance and hands-on medical experience she would receive as a combat medic, she said she was drawn to the challenge that being a soldier presented. “I wondered, ‘Can I hack that?’” she recalled.

Today, the recent graduate of Southern Utah University has a bachelor’s degree in nursing, 12 marathons under her belt, six years as a combat medic in the Utah National Guard, and she’s just applied for a direct commission to become an Army nurse.

Stevens said she attributes much of her success to her experiences in the Guard.

“The military has really, truly provided me with a lot of opportunity” in addition to teaching her to make the best of a difficult situation, she said. “I turned Afghanistan into a positive experience, an incredible experience, and I’m able to share it."
Since her return from Afghanistan in April 2005, Stevens frequently has been invited to give talks on her experiences. She said it’s an opportunity to give back, one that has only been fueled since her venture into pageantry

Her schedule is packed with speaking engagements at junior high and elementary schools, where she discusses her platform: “Ready When Disaster Strikes: Emergency Preparedness for Everyone.” She also teaches the importance of living life to the fullest.

“I love giving back,” she said, citing her opportunities as a soldier, a medic, a nurse and now, a titleholder. “It gives me the best feeling in life; it’s my passion.”

Stevens will compete for the Miss America crown in January.

Wild Thing's comment........

I am so very proud of all our service men and women. This is a great story and how neat it is , because if young girls saw this, read it and would get motivated to also serve our country from the inspiration of seeing others like Jill doing this.............well I think it is awesome.

Our media wil NOT tell great stories about our troops. They should because there are tons of these great stories out there.

One thing else too, our troops are not just numbers to us like they are to our sick media and the horrible lefties. They all have a story why they joined, who they are as a person, their reasons for joining and why they want to make a difference. I am honored to be able to share them when I see them because you are all so awesome too in so many ways and you all know the sacrifices our troops make and their families and loved ones as well.

Posted by Wild Thing at November 1, 2007 12:47 AM


Gunny Dad say's she should have been a US Navy Corpsman! OOH RAA SIS BOOM BAH!! Beauty, Brains,
Athleticism, Patriotism... WOW!!! Sickcall must be wall to wall in the waiting room, and BP readings must exceed 120/80.

Posted by: darthcrUSAderworldtour07 at November 1, 2007 03:46 AM

Here are a couple of links dedicated to the Women of the United States Armed Forces.

They ROCK!

Posted by: Dan at November 1, 2007 04:10 AM

Love it Darth, I can't envision her becoming a GySgt, the vocabulary thing.:)
I hope she wins the pageant, wouldn't that perk up some opinions and boost morale? It certainly would drive the media nuts and she's a darn site cuter than that 18th Surgical Hospital WAC Major who installed a zipper for me, guess I was just born too soon.

Posted by: Jack at November 1, 2007 05:14 AM

LOL, Darth and Jack! I bet if the ones at sickcall don't have a fever before, they do after being seen by her.
WT ~ you are so right about the terrific stories of our finest not getting air time. Oh no, Brittany and all the brat pack doing things we would ground our kids for for, are soooo much more important.

Posted by: yankeemom at November 1, 2007 06:54 AM

Holy Crap! I know her! I met her in Afghanistan.

Posted by: Sniper One at November 1, 2007 07:16 AM

OK, I spent some time in an Army Aviation unit. I am reupping and hitting daily sick call. I sure have lots of (old age)legitimate medical complaints.

Jill has sure accomplished a lot in 25 years. Now she wants to go on to nursing scool and a commission. Wow. I will now watch the Miss America pageant and root for Miss Utah, even over Miss Texas. Ooorah!!

Posted by: TomR at November 1, 2007 08:06 AM

Awesome! Way to go Miss Utah! Ooorah!
Yes, great story and ditto's on your comment!

Posted by: patrickdaniel at November 1, 2007 08:34 AM

Now here's a girl who girls can look up to!

Posted by: Lynn at November 1, 2007 09:24 AM

PS: Is she CPR qualified? My heart is stopping so I'll be needing some....! In the civilian world, my co-pay is $20.00 when the VA isn't seeing me, so what's her co-pay? WOW!

Posted by: darthcrUSAderworldtour07 at November 2, 2007 12:04 AM

Darth, hahaha that is cute.

Posted by: Wild Thing at November 2, 2007 12:19 AM

Dan those are great, thank you so much.

Posted by: Wild Thing at November 2, 2007 12:19 AM

Jack, haha, and also I agree I hope she wins the pageant too.

Posted by: Wild Thing at November 2, 2007 12:22 AM

Yankeemom, amen.

Posted by: Wild Thing at November 2, 2007 12:23 AM

Sniper One that is so wonderful. Thanks for sharing that.

Posted by: Wild Thing at November 2, 2007 12:25 AM

Tom, that is what Nick said too. He said we will watch it this year and cheer her on.

Posted by: Wild Thing at November 2, 2007 12:28 AM

Patrick thanks, I am so proud of all our women and men in the military. And when we get a chance to learn more about them it is always so awesome.

Posted by: Wild Thing at November 2, 2007 12:32 AM

Lynn I agree, good examples like this instead of the paris hiltons of this world.

Posted by: Wild Thing at November 2, 2007 12:33 AM

Darth, haha

Posted by: Wild Thing at November 2, 2007 12:34 AM