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11-03-06, 07:56 AM
November 02, 2006
Marine sergeant a pageant winner

By Gidget Fuentes
Staff writer

OCEANSIDE, Calif. – As a young girl, Sgt. Maria Madigan had a dream of one day being crowned a beauty pageant winner.

Instead, while raising three daughters, Madigan enlisted in the Corps and began a 10-year career that’s kept her more in combat boots and camouflage utilities than in glamorous gowns and heeled shoes.

But at 39, Madigan’s dream has finally come true. Last Sunday in San Diego, Madigan, wearing a long black gown, was crowned with a sparkling tiara and a sash as the Miss Armed Forces All-American San Diego.

The pageant isn’t part of the largesse of the famous and well-funded pageants such as Miss America or Miss U.S.A., but for military women, wives and daughters, it is for some the start of a beauty career and for most the venue to fulfill their dream. Madigan, active reservist, landed in the local pageants after moving from Minneapolis, Minn., to Southern California. “I did it just for fun and to meet people,” she said.

So, she competed in last year’s pageant and finished as the first runner-up. One day, while standing in for the winner at a local Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps event, she served food and chatted with war veterans and knew that this was the role she enjoys most. “I’m here to help,” she said.

By day, Madigan is a supply clerk with the Inspector-Instructor Staff of 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion at Camp Pendleton, Calif., where she’s the only female Marine on staff and maintains her tough military bearing with her brown belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.

Beauty pageants, which she’s doing with two of her teenage daughters, have become a fun distraction from her military career that have allowed her to enjoy the girly side of life. “I get to be both,” she said, noting that she’s working on getting her green MCMAP belt.

Combat training and pageant competition aren’t necessarily at polar ends. Each requires a uniform, discipline and even good marching skills. Still, making the leap from rugged combat training to pageant competition wasn’t always an easy transition.

“The hardest thing for me was to walk on stage and not march,” she said.


Sgt. Maria Madigan won the Miss Armed Forces All-American San Diego Oct. 29 in San Diego. — Courtesy Maria Madigan