Former Miss Kansas, Sgt. Theresa Vail, was among this year’s Bataan Memorial Death March heavy division participants March 22 at White Sands Missile Range.
This was Vail’s third time participating in the treacherous marathon through the White Sands Missile Range desert, an event that has more meaning that just a marathon to Vail.
“It’s so inspiring to see wounded vets and amputees with prosthetics struggling, but they won’t quit,” Vail said. “It’s motivation to keep going.”
Vail, who is currently serving in the Kansas Army National Guard Medical Detachment, first participated in the march in 2011. She said she knew the history behind the march, which honors a group of World War II veterans who were forced to march over 60 miles under brutal conditions in the Philippines by Japanese soldiers.
“I try to imitate what they experienced,” Vail said. “With such a busy schedule, I don’t have time to train. The Soldiers who marched the actual Death March didn’t have training time. They were marching for life or death.”
Besides serving in the National Guard, Vail is also a student and is filming an upcoming television show called Limitless, scheduled to air in July on the Outdoor Channel.
Vail, who turned in her crown last June, will share her hunting and outdoor experiences in the show. This year, a friend and a filming crew joined her for the march. Her experience during Bataan will air on an episode in conjunction with a challenging New Mexico elk hunt which required Vail to walk 10 miles a day.
“The show is called Limitless,” Vail said. “It’s about challenging your body. There’s nothing you can’t handle. And once you start doing it, you can’t quit.”
Vail has the same mindset for Bataan as she carries an Army ruck sack filled with 35 pounds of rice along the 26.2 mile march. Last year, she invited three pageant participants to experience the march.
“I wanted them to experience it prior to the pageant so they would have confidence in their abilities,” Vail said. “When you are finished you are filled with confidence.”
Vail was the first Miss America Pageant to bare tattoos during the competition and her goal has been to empower women throughout her career.
“I feel like I have been noticed,” she said. “I feel that young girls and women are looking up to me. I’m not afraid of a struggle.”