It’s an honor to serve. For Miss Veteran America, it’s also an honor to serve her fellow female veterans who face adversity.
The organization Final Salute Inc. is committed to combating not only homeless female veterans, but also to help female veterans going through financial strife that puts them in danger of homelessness, or facing other troubles. Recently, they have helped a young woman who lost her job due to time conflicts from fighting cancer, and was worried she could not keep her electricity on to keep her necessary heart pump going at night.
Final Salute, which was founded in 2010, came up with a brilliant idea to bring attention to their organization by utilizing a long standing tradition of femininity. Their delightful twist on the American tradition of pageants displaying military pride is the Miss Veteran America (MVA) competition.
Kimberly Wolfanger is the third woman ever distinguished with the honor of MVA and she carries the title with pride. “If I could describe MVA, it would be embracing the women beyond the uniform,” she tells us here at VA Home Loan Centers. “We’re moms, sisters, daughters – we’re just women. We can embrace our femininity in this competition.”
In her YouTube campaign video, which you can watch by clicking here Kimberly refers to herself as the Iron Princess. She proudly displays photos of her physique, video clips of her physical capability, and pictures of herself in military uniform. With the brawn comes the brains, as she has two bachelor degrees and is finishing her master’s degree.
“My masters is in teaching English for students with disabilities,” Kimberly says. “I’m student teaching right now, so it’s like an internship process and it’s full time. I’m excited to be in my last semester, and I’m starting to become a Girl Scout troop leader.”
What inspired Kimberly to take part in MVA? “I had seen a promo trailer on Facebook from the 2013 competition, and I was like ‘what is this about?’” She did her research and after looking into Final Salute, the cause hit close to home. “I was shocked,” she recalls. “It was a demographic I had never considered before as a female veteran myself, so the general public probably doesn’t know about it if I didn’t.”
The MVA competition takes place over a matter of months. First, the women who want to be involved work to be nominated and gather sponsors to cover costs, such as travel and outfits. Those nominated take place in regional competitions involving a formal interview and a display of talent. The Top 25 go to finals, where for that weekend, there is a preliminary process of doing another interview, their display of talent, and sharing their story of military experience. The points are added up so that a Top 10 is selected for the Sunday of the main event. The Top 3 are then whittled down, where they display all of the previous requested qualities, plus answering a question on the spot for judges.
Kimberly’s role as MVA 2014 is to act as a representative for Final Salute’s cause. Part of the obligation in the title is performing 100 hours of community service as a spokeswoman for homeless female veterans. She attends many public speaking events, saying her biggest contribution is that she truly cares, and people can see it.
“There is difficulty in transitioning into civilian life,” she shares. “It’s hard to find work. We had savings, we had the GI Bill, but we had enough savings for only one more month’s rent.” They were relieved when her husband, Michael, found a job right in the nick of time.
“You can see how easy it is to be off your feet, even when you’re trying,” she says with a hint of emotion in her voice. “That’s why I want to advocate for organizations helping our veterans.”
Michael walked away from MVA 2014 with an honor of his own. Michael Wolfanger was given the title of Mr. Mom 2014.
What exactly does Mr. Mom mean? “Being a supportive husband,” Michael says. “It’s her getting to do everything she wanted in competing for MVA while not worrying about laundry being done or our daughter being taken care of.”
Kimberly is responsible for Michael’s Mr. Mom win, as she created a YouTube video highlighting how he helps out the family, which you can watch here by clicking here. Michael also has quite an interesting back story.
“I’m Ellen DeGeneres’ underwear model,” he says with a chuckle. Back in 2013, the talk show host had a competition for a hunky guy to be her underwear model, and Michael won, which you can witness in a video here.
The couple finds it easy to support one another, since they both were involved in the military. Kimberly has a history with USMC, and Michael with the Army. Michael went to school for exercise science and, other than his notoriety with The Ellen Show, is a personal trainer and nutrition consultant.
“I get emails and progress pictures from guys I helped,” Michael says, who offers his services for free to fellow veterans. “They are taking a more active role in having a healthy life.”
Kimberly says that her biggest inspiration in her life is her mother. “Well, my biological mom passed when I was younger, and my aunt adopted me and raised me as her own,” she shares. “I call [my aunt] ‘mom’, so I guess it would be my moms, plural.”
She remembers the strength her biological mother showed before her passing, smiling every day despite her sickness. Her aunt’s actions served as an example to her throughout her young life.
“She always persevered through life, never quit, and every time she wants something, she goes for it,” Kimberly shares. “She’s stayed in school and stays active, no matter what life throws at her.”
Michael draws his inspiration from the women in his life, with his wife being the biggest. “She’s the one who pushed me to do The Ellen Show thing and to put myself out there, not saying no to opportunities,” he says with pride. “She influenced me to take chances, and seeing how hard she works makes me want to stay at that level.”
Kimberly and Michael get a lot of support from the general public, including from women who admire Kimberly for her strength and thank Michael for his admirable Mr. Mom role, which they say bravely goes against social norms. However, Michael sometimes catches some flack and takes it in stride.
“I was also approached by dad groups who were offended by me being Mr. Mom,” he shared. He and Kimberly laughed, as they compared a scenario from the “Piemary” episode of Parks and Recreation to their situation. They both know there is nothing derogatory about the Mr. Mom title and find offense taken to it silly.
The couple has enjoyed the whirlwind of attention from MVA and Mr. Mom, as well as Michael’s personal training and modeling gigs. They are building up their employment history so that they can soon take advantage of the VA home loan.
“We’re still renting, but we intend to buy a home with the VA home loan,” Kimberly said. “We tried to get a VA home loan before, actually, but we didn’t have enough taxable income yet. They [the VA] can’t use the GI Bill towards income, but as soon as we reach that eligible point, we’re taking advantage of it.”
The military power couple will continue to enjoy their reign, so to speak, until it is time for Kimberly to turn over the crown in the October 2015 competition in Las Vegas. They look forward to that trip in the fall, and also passing on the message of female empowerment to their daughter.
“If our daughter ever decides to go into the military,” Michael states, and then continues after a moment of pondering, “We will tell her about our experiences. We just hope she chooses to go to college.”
If you want more information on Miss Veteran America, and Mr. Mom, visit the competition site by click here and the Final Salute Inc. main site by clicking here. You can follow Kimberly on Twitter by clicking here and follow Michael by clicking here.
Is a VA home loan a possibility for you, if you’re active duty or a veteran? Click here to learn about the VA home loan.