Sgt. Theresa Vail, Miss Kansas, takes part in the swimsuit competition Sept. 11 during the first night of the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J. (Edward Lea/The Associated Press)
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There she is, Miss Sarge.
Theresa Vail, the first contestant in the history of the Miss America pageant with visible tattoos — though not sergeant’s stripes — is a member of the Kansas Army National Guard’s Medical Detachment.
With the goal of breaking stereotypes, Vail, 22, revealed two tattoos during the swimsuit portion of the competition Tuesday — the Serenity Prayer on her right side and the insignia of the U.S. Army Dental Corps on her left shoulder.
“Why am I choosing to bear my tattoos?” Vail said in her blog. “My whole platform is empowering women to overcome stereotypes and break barriers. What a hypocrite I would be if I covered my ink. How can I tell other women to be fearless and true to themselves if I can’t do the same? I am who I am, tattoos and all.”
Vail said the military medical insignia, while smaller than the serenity prayer, just as significant to her.
“Since I was a child, God placed a strong passion for service into my heart,” she said in the blog. “Service to my Country, and service to people through medicine. In the middle of this symbol is the letter ‘D’ to represent my dad, whose influence was paramount in choosing this career path.”
Vail is an aspiring military dentist and senior at Kansas State University, with a lot of accomplishments under her MOLLE belt, according to misskansas.org. She is a medical detachment section leader, an expert marksman with an M16 rifle, a bowhunter and speaks Chinese fluently. She has earned multiple Army physical fitness awards.
Vail is also dedicated to empowering women as the CEO and founder of the Miss Outdoor Girl brand and website. She is also the director of public relations and spokesperson for the hunting company Suburban Woodsman, according to the Miss Kansas website.
She held the title of Miss Leavenworth County on the way to becoming Miss Kansas.
Vail follows in the footsteps of Sgt. Jill Stevens, a member of the Utah National Guard's 1st Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment, who took a shot at the Miss America title in 2008. Stevens is combat medic and Miss Utah 2007.
The Miss America pageant’s finale will be Sunday night. The pageant is back in Atlantic City, N.J., after a six-year absence.