WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 22, 2007) - The reigning Miss USA Rachel Smith paid a call on the Army yesterday. After lunch and a Pentagon tour, Miss USA visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where she spent several hours chatting with wounded warriors.

Born in Panama, but raised in Clarksville, Tenn., the 21-year-old daughter of dual Army parents hadn't been to the nation's capital since a school field trip she took in the seventh grade.

"I already have a much better appreciation for our nation's capital ... I know I'll leave here immensely changed," she said. "What impressed me most about the Soldiers I had lunch with today was the enthusiasm and pride they have in our country. It's contagious because I, too, am a representative of our country, and they passed some of their strength and advice to me."

The Soldiers she dined with were equally impressed with the beauty queen who was also Miss Tennessee Teen USA in 2002.

"I realized after talking with her at lunch how genuine she is," said Staff Sergeant Ed Fountain, who serves in the Sergeant Major of the Army's office. "Even though her parents retired when she was very young, she's always lived around the Army and has a lot of respect for the military and what we do."

After touring the Pentagon and visiting the Sept. 11 memorial center, Ms. Smith said she had a better understanding of what it means to be an American and to be a Soldier.

"It was really emotional to see where the plane hit on 9/11 and to meet the men and women Soldiers who fight for our country on a daily basis," she said. "I have so much admiration for what our armed forces do on a day-to-day basis, not just anyone can do that.

"It takes a certain strength, determination and personality to take the challenges and adversities that Soldiers face; it takes a special and unique person to endure the responsibility; they have to be Army strong," she added. "The motto I try to live by is the same one I think our Soldiers strive for - 'to whom much is given, much is expected.'"