Air Force Officer Madison Marsh Crowned Miss America
WaPo (“This year’s Miss America is an active-duty Air Force officer“):
A second lieutenant in the Air Force is swapping her helmet for a crown after winning the title of Miss America 2024.
Madison Marsh prevailed Sunday as Colorado’s representative, becoming the first active-duty Air Force officer to win the pageant, according to the Miss Colorado website.
“Congratulations to our very own Airman,” the Air Force tweeted as Marsh won the event.
Her Miss Colorado biography is not typical of a pageant contender: “In her free time, Madison enjoys flying planes, cooking pasta, and reading,” it says.
Fifty-one contestants — from each state and Washington, D.C. — competed for the 2024 crown, a title the pageant calls “a 365-day opportunity,” with “community service” at its center.
“When I put on my uniform, I serve, and I represent our country,” Marsh told the Harvard Crimson student newspaper ahead of Sunday’s finale. “When I put on the crown and sash, I’m serving, representing my community.”
Marsh told the newspaper that she hopes her story “can tell the young girls that you don’t have to play a conventional role.”
The Air Force Academy championed Marsh throughout the competition, sharing a photo of her standing alongside a plane in her uniform to its Instagram account, with a caption that read, “from the flight line to the spotlight.”
During the competition, Marsh said she hoped to “break stereotypes about women in pageants and the military,” while making “friends that will last a lifetime.”
Marsh, who was crowned Miss Colorado in 2023, is an Arkansas native and holds a degree in physics from the Air Force Academy. She is studying public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, according to her competition profile.
After the death of her mother in 2018, Marsh helped set up a charitable foundation to fund research into pancreatic cancer and help care for patients. To date, more than a quarter-million dollars has been raised, according to the Miss Colorado website.
It’s a remarkable story in so many ways. Balancing the competing demands of these pageants and the life of a USAFA cadet must have been extraordinarily challenging. And she obviously excelled, not only winning the Miss Academy, Miss Colorado, and Miss America pageants but graduating high enough academically to be selected for pilot training and to gain admission to HKS. And all the while she’s been running a nonprofit?
Presumably, the Air Force is giving her some unusual accommodations to allow her to pursue her master’s degree before going to flight school. And she’ll have some significant obligations as Miss America. But we’ve allowed academy graduates to defer service to play professional sports, for example, so it’s possible. She’s a great recruiting poster for the Academy and the service.