TAMPA (FOX 13) - Desiree Pabon is an unlikely glamor girl. At 17, a rocky relationship with her mother left her homeless and alone, so a career in the military seemed like the perfect fit for a girl with few options.
"I've been at the lowest, and to this day, I'm making to most out of my life," Desiree said.
And she did. She got married, started a family, and life was good. For some, this would be the end of the story, but for Desiree it was just the beginning.
She came across a cause that hit very close to home.
"It started off as a fundraiser for homeless women veterans, and it's grown into this competition that I actually hope continues to grow across the nation," Desiree explained.
That competition is called Miss Veteran America and is hosted by Final Salute Inc., an organization created to help homeless women veterans.
Women from all branches of service are encouraged to enter. It's the perfect platform for someone who wants to give back, like Desiree.
"Yeah the crown looks great, but that crown is to grab your attention, and say, "Hey, come here. Let me tell you about these homeless women veterans that are out on these streets, on any given day," she told FOX 13 News. "There is an estimated 55,000 homeless women veterans on our streets, on any given day. The women veterans, they don't have a voice."
And although Desiree made it to the finals, she didn't come home with the crown. But she has some words of wisdom for other young women who've had a rough start in life.
"For any young lady that's out there, feeling abandoned and just [feeling] like giving up, don't give up. You have no idea what your voice can do for someone else," she said.
For more information on how to help homeless women veterans, visit the Final Salute Inc. website at http://www.finalsaluteinc.org/