The reigning Miss America is an active-duty Air Force soldier with big dreams (2024)

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  • By Ashleigh FieldsSpecial to Free Times

The reigning Miss America is an active-duty Air Force soldier with big dreams (3)

WASHINGTON D.C. — Eighty-two years after fictitious character Rosie the Riveter let America know women had a place in the war effort, Madison Marsh is affirming that message for young girls.

Marsh, the first active-duty Miss America, is using her platform to uplift and encourage service members of all backgrounds.

“I hope that I can show the younger generations, you can be a woman in uniform. You can be feminine and that doesn't take away from your leadership,” she said with a smile.

This past weekend, she traveled to Omaha Beach for the 80th commemoration of D-Day in honor of World War II veterans like Marjorie Stone. A female aircraft mechanic in the Naval Reserve who helped open doors for more women to serve.

“Last year, the first time I came and visited Normandy was right after I commissioned, graduating from the Air Force Academy,” Marsh said while standing in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. “Every time I look at the American flag, I think of people that have given the ultimate sacrifice not only for our nation, but for people all around the globe to have a chance at freedom and peace.”

Over 9,387 fallen soldiers lay buried at the site, a stark reminder of the impact of war. Annually, families unite on the former battleground, and this year's was with President Joe Biden and French leader Emmanuel Macron to reminisce on the largest sea invasion in world history.

The reigning Miss America is an active-duty Air Force soldier with big dreams (4)

“The men who fought here became heroes not because they were the strongest or toughest or were fiercest — although they were — but because they were given an audacious mission,” Biden recalled in his remarks. “Every one of them knew the probability of dying was real, but they did it anyway. They knew, beyond any doubt, there are things that are worth fighting and dying for.”

He harped on the power of allies and the importance of young service members.

“The price of unchecked tyranny is the blood of the young and the brave,” he boldly stated. “In their generation, in their hour of trial, the Allied forces of D-Day did their duty. Now the question for us is: In our hour of trial, will we do ours?”

It’s a question Marsh works to answer every day.

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“Remembering all of the veterans that are here and what they have given while some are still alive to share their message and story makes me proud to put on the uniform,” said Marsh. “Notonly do I get to serve in the Miss America capacity by getting to go speak to younger children, but I also then the next day can go and put on a uniform and show them the dual respect that both of those positions can bring.”

Wearing the American flag everyday alongside her sash and crown is a dream come true for the 23 year old.

“Role models were so important for me growing up and I realize it's hard to picture yourself being able to do something if you don't see someone else,” said Marsh who ranks as a 2nd Lt. in the Air Force.

Marsh has trained in the air for the past seven years after receiving her pilot license at 16 years old. She earned her degree in astrophysics from the United State Air Force Academy in El Paso County, Colorado, where she excelled just two years after losing her mother to pancreatic cancer. Now, she researches the disease to help improve treatments and find a cure while working to obtain a master’s degree in addition to balancing the responsibilities of her title.

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“One of the things that I speak to the younger people in the high school range about is the tough patches that I've been through, because what I don't want is people to think that I'm idealistic and everything has always been great,” she said. “I want other kids to recognize that it's okay to try and fail. Embrace failure. That's how you learn.”

This is a lesson that sustained her throughout numerous accomplishments and defeats.

Marsh always tells herself, “Every single day is a learning process, it's a leadership laboratory.”

Her mission is to inspire others to serve, proving people from all backgrounds can enlist and lead.

“Together, we all create this really collective, amazing group representing the entire United States,” said Marsh. “I hope that it inspires our younger generation to see that they can do it too.”

Ashleigh Fields is a freelance writer based in Washington D.C.

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