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USAF officer makes history as first active duty Miss America

Here she is, Miss America! Madison Marsh is a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force, studying how to cure pancreatic cancer at Harvard.
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photo collage of Miss America Madison Marsh
Madison Marsh, USAF photo, left; right: screengrab, Miss America Instagram

On Sunday night, January 14, 2024, U.S. Air Force officer Madison Marsh made history when she was crowned the 2024 Miss America in Orlando. The 22-year-old Miss Colorado competed against 50 other contestants (one representing every state and one from the District of Columbia) and became the first-ever active duty service member to earn the title.

Marsh is a graduate of the Air Force Academy and the first contestant to be an Academy grad. On Instagram, Marsh wrote, “Miss Academy – a woman who does both. I am immensely grateful to represent multiple communities that often look like polar opposites. If I am crowned Miss Colorado, I would be the first ever Miss America contestant to be a graduate from an Academy or an officer from any military branch. To me, this represents all current uniformed women and all those yet to come. Holding this title as an officer is a testament to women breaking boundaries and stereotypes daily. I hope my pageant journey has opened many eyes and minds so that countless other women can follow in pursuit. Colorado is a state of “firsts” and I would be proud to add to the list.”

That she did. Semi-finalists competed in four rounds of events. The events included a fitness runway walk, a “hot topics” interview, a talent show, and, per tradition, the evening gown runway. Marsh is certainly impressive, but she’s much, much more than “just a pretty face.” In addition to being a second lieutenant in the Air Force, Marsh is a fierce advocate for pancreatic cancer research. Her why? Her mom.

Madison Marsh and her mom, photo via Instagram

“For those who do not know, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January of 2018,” Marsh wrote on Instagram. “After months of intense chemotherapy, she was set to have a life-saving procedure called ‘The Whipple’ on July 11. However, the day before her scans showed that her cancer had taken over her entire stomach. Her liver. Her abdominal wall. Her intestines. Everything. This meant no procedure and doctors telling her the horrific line ‘you will not make it to Christmas.’ Unfortunately, my mom did not. She passed away from this terrorizing cancer on November 1, 2018. This is the type of person I fight for because I am tired of people like her becoming a statistic. A statistic that states only 9% of pancreatic cancer patients will survive. An unforgettable and unacceptable statistic.”

Following her mother’s death from pancreatic cancer, Marsh and her family founded the Whitney Marsh Foundation. The Foundation has raised over $250,000 for research. Marsh is passionate about finding a cure and studying how to harness artificial intelligence to identify pancreatic cancer at Harvard.

Congratulations, Miss America! Way to Aim High!

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