COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A national competition between all women soldiers helped to raise $100,000 in the fight against female veteran homelessness this year.
Bryanna Smith, a drill sergeant with Fort Jackson, finished as a top 10 finalist in the Ms. Veteran America competition.
According to the U.S. Department of Urban Housing and the Development, the fastest growing homeless population in the country are female veterans – many of them mothers.
Smith says that as a solider and a mother, she wants to help.
“It was really on: for advocating, for raising awareness, for collecting donations,” Smith said.
The mother and full-time USC student says she was inspired to become a drill sergeant by her own drill sergeants during her time in basic training.
“They kind of told me I wasn’t going to ever be one. So, I said, you know what? I’m going to definitely be one now,” Smith said.
Now, she’s doing just that with the U.S. Army Reserves on Fort Jackson, and so is her husband who is also a drill sergeant.
When her co-workers encouraged her to compete in Ms. Veteran America, Smith said, “sign me up.”
“There was about 400 applicants this year, which is the highest amount versus every other year and so out of that 400, 100 of us were chosen and then out of those 100, 25 of us were chosen, who went to Hollywood this past October, “ Smith said.
Smith says when she first started the program she didn’t know that there was such a need for homeless female veterans.
“They’re the fastest growing population of homeless personnel in America,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine me and my children – or this one, who’s coming – I couldn’t imagine not knowing if I was going to have a roof over my head the next day for them.”
As she continued to move forward in the competition, Smith said she grew to appreciate the mission of the competition even more.
“They like to say that it’s not a pageant it’s more of a competition to show our advocacy towards homeless female veterans and it’s not about the beauty but it’s about our grace and our poise and our willingness to help the community and help those who really, really need it,” Smith said.
She even won the Show Stopper award for her talent, caught on video as she performs a live abstract painting. There’s also one more award on her shelf.
“Hot Mama of the Year is what they call it,” Smith said laughing. “It’s not for being the hottest mama. It’s for the sacrifices I’ve made as a soldier and a mother.”
The drill sergeant was nine months pregnant during the competition on October 7. She’s due in less than two weeks now.
Smith was selected as a top 25 finalist to compete in Hollywood, California, finishing in the top 10.
The final 25 raised $100,000 dollars while competing in Ms. Veteran America. Proceeds will benefit female veteran homelessness around the country.