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Sgt. Theresa Vail: Miss Kansas' tattoos symbolize prayer, 'strong passion for service'

Sgt. Theresa Vail, a dental technician in the Kansas National Guard and Miss Kansas 2013, sports her Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment, known as a MOLLE pack, as she leaves the Miss Kansas Pageant at Pratt County Community College in Pratt, Kan., on June 8, 2013.

Theresa Vail isn’t looking to shock the nation at the 2014 Miss America Pageant, but she is trying to empower women to overcome stereotypes and break barriers, she wrote on her blog.

Vail, who is competing as Miss Kansas in the 93rd edition of the pageant, announced in the blog post that she will have her two tattoos visibly exposed during the competition. She is thought to be the first contestant in the history of the pageant to do so.

That decision has generated national attention, including a profile in People magazine. The preliminary portion of the pageant begins Tuesday in Atlantic City, N.J.

“I am writing this post just weeks away from competing for Miss America because I do not want to shock the nation when I’m seen in a swimsuit, bearing my marks. I want to explain the meanings and reasons behind them, and why I am opting to show them proudly,” Vail wrote on her blog in August.

Vail, who is a 22-year-old student at Kansas State, is a sergeant in the Kansas Army National Guard’s Medical Detachment, an avid bowhunter and an expert marksman.

One of her tattoos is the “Serenity Prayer.”

“I was growing up amidst the bullying and neglect, I found myself asking God on a daily basis to give me peace in knowing I cannot change certain things about myself, but also asking Him to give me the strength to change things that I had the power to. Praying to Him for these characteristics got me through my adolescent years, high school and boot camp. When I was 20 years old, I knew I wanted to always be reminded of my past and its connection to this prayer. Thus, I chose to have it tattooed onto my body. I have no regrets,” the blog explains.

Her second tattoo relates to her military service.

“The second is the military medical insignia. Though much smaller than the prayer, the significance is just as great. Since I was a child, God placed a strong passion for service into my heart. Service to my Country, and service to people through medicine. In the middle of this symbol is the letter ‘D’ to represent my dad, whose influence was paramount in choosing this career path,” she wrote.

On the blog, she defended her decision to leave the tattoos visible:

“Why am I choosing to bear my tattoos? Reference A; my platform! Empowering women to OVERCOME stereotypes and break barriers. What a hypocrite I would be if I covered the ink. With my platform, how could I tell other women to be fearless and be true to themselves if I can’t do the same? Now, had my platform been something entirely different, maybe the tables would be turned. Maybe. But I am who I am, tattoos and all.”

Vail, who won the Miss Kansas title after winning Miss Leavenworth County, is attempting to be the first Miss America from Kansas since 1997, when Tara Dawn Holland, of Overland Park, won.

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