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On Sunday, Oct. 13, Western Illinois University alumna and Havana, IL, native, Stormy Knowles, along with 20 other contestants, will compete in Ms. Veteran America.
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WIU Alumna to Compete in Ms. Veteran America Oct. 13

September 30, 2013

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MACOMB, IL – Stormy Knowles, a Western Illinois University alumna and Havana, IL, native, is on a mission to help homeless female veterans. For this detail, instead wearing of her typical U.S. Army fatigues, the senior non-commissioned officer will be donning evening gowns and—if all goes as she has planned—a crown.

On Sunday, Oct. 13, Knowles, along with 20 other contestants, will compete in Ms. Veteran America at the National Conference Center in Leesburg, VA. For Knowles, who joined the U.S. Army in 1997 and finished up her interdisciplinary studies bachelor's degree from Western in 1998, qualifying to compete in the pageant provides a way to continue her extensive volunteer work. The competition benefits Final Salute, Inc.—an organization with the mission to provide homeless female Veterans with safe and suitable housing—as well as spotlights women in the military and the contributions they make.

"The winner of Ms. Veteran America will serve as an ambassador to Final Salute, Inc., for the next year, which is an organization that brings awareness to the growing issue of homeless female veterans and the lack of programs to assist them," Knowles said. Awareness and advocacy are the goal."

The mother of two, Easton, 14, and Kaitlyn, 10, Knowles and her children reside in Lorton, VA. According to Knowles, over the last 15 years, she has volunteered extensively in childhood cancer organizations, such as Make a Wish and The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, in part, because of her son's Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia diagnosis when he was a toddler. To help children who have dyslexia like her daughter, she has worked for charitable organizations that promote awareness about dyslexia. She said she has also advocated for her fellow soldiers' children with special needs and noted her education at Western provided her with the background and knowledge to be able to assist them.

Knowles said her past-pageant experience—in 1994 and in 1996 she competed in the Miss Macomb Scholarship Pageant—and her desire to help others are factors that compelled her to take a run at the Ms. Veteran America competition.

"Last year, a friend of mine came across the event, and having competed in pageants for years, I wanted to know more. I started following the events of Ms. Veteran America and made a point to learn more about the organization in which she served as an ambassador, Final Salute," Knowles explained. "When the time came to send in my paperwork to compete, I spoke to my first sergeant and commander, and they both felt that I should give it a shot. I began to do my own research on homeless female veterans—the incidences of their homelessness in comparison to males and what some of the circumstances are/were leading up to their homelessness. That information confirmed my decision to give the competition a try."

Knowles competed in the preliminaries in June, and in July, she found out she made the top 20 cut. Over the summer, in addition to preparing for the Oct. 13 competition, Knowles—who has served as a radio technology specialist in the U.S. Army for 16 years—was finishing up a final course to earn her master's degree from Columbia Southern University and working full-time in her position as a manager in the U.S. Army Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Clinic Department of Radiology. She said her preparation for the competition involves writing, finding a dress and reviewing military history.

"The categories for Ms. Veteran America, in which all the women will compete, are: interview, talent, military history and advocacy. For the preliminaries, I wrote something and read it, and I will continue with that as my talent. The piece represents who we are as women serving in the military, the mothers we are and the sacrifices we make," she said.

According to Knowles, interested individuals can also help homeless female vets through Final Salute, Inc., by making a donation in her name to Final Salute, Inc., at

"There are also sponsorships available if someone was interested in becoming a sponsor or purchasing an ad," she said. "I just want to bring awareness to the cause and to help as much as possible. As little as $25 will bring a homeless veteran off the streets for one day. Imagine what we can do if we raised $2,500? So far, those who have raised money have raised more than $44,000 for Final Salute, Inc., and we still have two weeks to go before the competition."

To follow Knowles and her pursuit of Ms. Veteran America, visit her Facebook page at or her Twitter handle at

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (
Office of University Communications & Marketing