An Army Specialist from Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado is on the road to become Miss America.
Army Specialist Maura Spence, 21, was crowned Miss Colorado in June of 2021, becoming the first active military solider to hold the title in the state.
Spence, who is originally from Katy, Texas, is an intelligence analyst with the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado.
She is a beauty queen, fighter, and a soldier, but one of her biggest accomplishments is her activism regarding mental health.
ABC 13 reports: “At a young age, she’s already breaking the social stigma of what it is to be a woman and a soldier and she wants to spread awareness on mental health. Maura Spence Carroll is strong and confident. Her love for her country goes beyond serving in the military, she wants to fight to make mental health a priority, especially for service members and veterans.”
— 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div. (@RaiderBrigade) June 21, 2021
Spence had been competing in pageants for almost a decade, but after graduating high school in 2017, she realized how expensive her college tuition would be. A year later, she joined the Army, saying that she “wanted to do something that would make people proud, that was kind of cool and would give me life experience.”
At that time, Spence was still struggling with her mental health. After her five year old sister drowned in 2015, she said she had been “more depressed than I had ever been in my life.”
Even after joining the Army, she felt as if she was “barely treading water, trying to keep up with everything.”
“That was the first time I had ever experienced monumental loss,” Spence said of her sister’s death. “It changes you.”
Spence has always felt that her life was a puzzle that she had been trying to piece together. In October of 2020, she found that missing piece when she finally sought help and was diagnosed with ADHD.
Thanks to that diagnosis and help from mental health professionals, Spence is now “thriving,” and wants to use her platform in the Miss America pageant to help push to destigmatize mental health care, especially within the military community.
According to Spence, the stigma surrounding mental health is “preventing service members from receiving care,” and needs to be attacked “from every level.”
She stated that her goals as Miss Colorado are to spread mental health awareness and to prevent service member suicides.
“If I don’t win Miss America, I’ll still be Miss Colorado. Either way, I feel like I win if I get to represent my state and my country,” she said.
Spence’s officer-in-charge, 1st Lt. Andrew Looss, has praised the Army specialist as a “self-starter,” noting that she has a “fire in her that makes her very proactive.”
“Her responsibilities are far greater than what is expected from a specialist, and she exceeds them with ease,” Looss said. “She is a team player and brings great energy to the battalion and the intelligence section.”
Spence will be competing in the Miss America pageant which takes place in Connecticut in December 2021.
In a post on Facebook in June, Spence announced that she had been chosen as Miss Colorado, and thanked her supporters for their encouragement.