When this Fort Drum Soldier takes off her boots at the end of the work day, it would not be unusual for her to let her hair down, put on a pair of high heels and practice her interview skills.
That is because, in her spare time, Sgt. Amanda Helena Marion, a combat medic with 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, also happens to be Miss Massachusetts United States. This week, she is spending her block leave in Las Vegas competing for the national title of Miss United States.
Marion grew up in Massachusetts and began competing in beauty pageants when she was 12. When she joined the Army about 5 A,A1/2 years ago, she put competing on hold for a while to focus on her job.
She completed a tour in Korea from 2003 to 2004 and then deployed to Afghanistan with 710th Brigade Support Battalion in 2006. When she got back to Fort Drum in 2007, she decided to compete again.
Marion won second runner-up in the Miss Massachusetts International pageant that year, then started preparing for the Miss Massachusetts United States pageant, which she won in April this year.
At this week's Miss United States pageant, she will compete in the swimwear, evening gown, interview and talent portions. Her talent is baton twirling, which she learned at age 6 from her mother.
She also learned her love for the military from Family. Her sister is a Soldier, and her uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather all served in the Army. Her father was in the Marines, and her younger brother plans to enlist in the military after high school.
Marion said being in the Army helps prepare her for competitions.
"The military preps you when you go to the board, which prepares you for the interview portion in the pageants," she explained. "It also has prepped me in the area of fitness, because in all the competitions, you're judged on fitness, whether you're modeling sportswear or you're modeling a swimsuit or some type of active wear. In the military, you have PT every morning, and you always have to uphold the standard of physical fitness."
Although Marion enjoys competing in pageants, she stays focused on her job, including an upcoming deployment.
"I'm actually excited about deployment. We get to do our job more as medics, not because Soldiers are getting hurt, but because we're helping the local population," she said. "You're not going to win everyone's hearts and minds, and obviously you've got (local residents who) don't want you to be there, but it is nice to be able to do your job and be rewarded with a thank-you or a hug or a smile. It's a good feeling."
According to the physician's assistant who works with Marion, beauty pageants do not affect her focus on the job.
"Sgt. Marion's pageants do not distract her at all from her duties in the Army," said Capt. Karen Fish. "She works late nearly every day and comes to work almost every weekend to ensure her medics are taken care of and all of her missions / tasks are completed above standard. Very few Soldiers in her position could find time to do their job as well as she does and compete in pageants, but Sgt. Marion seems to do it with ease."
Marion said everything she does in the military is a tribute to her grandfather, and her personal platform, "Waving Our Flag for Veterans," is in honor of him. Her goal is to be influential in bettering living standards and health care for veterans, and to educate veterans on benefits to which they are entitled.
"I saw that, as a veteran, he was getting inadequate care, and I didn't like that," she said. "Some of the homes in Massachusetts are run down, and when you walk in there, it can be really sad to see. And that's not something I want for any veteran. They already did their time, they already sacrificed their whole entire self for their country, so why are they treated so poorly'
"The part that I love the best is being able to sit down and talk to ... veterans and hear their stories and how it was when they served," she added. "Then they ask about how things are now and what it's like, and we're able to compare war stories."
Marion said she plans to have plenty of time in the military to gather more stories to share with the veterans.
"I like being in the military," Marion said. "I've re-enlisted to stay in, and I will re-enlist again. Beauty pageants are my hobby; the military is my career."