Civil Air Patrol Maj. Jaimie L Henson entered the Mrs. United States National Pageant on a whim, hoping it would give her a platform to tell people about the Civil Air Patrol and the benefits of volunteerism.
So Henson was “quite surprised” to learn that she will represent her state as Mrs. Kentucky in this July’s pageant.
“It is a beauty pageant, but the Mrs. [United States National] Pageant focuses on accomplishments, and not so much the physical beauty,” Henson told Flightlines on Thursday. “I think that’s one of the things that kind of intrigued me about it. The age for the pageant contestants is 25 to 65. We’re judged not against each other, but against ourselves. How am I as a 51-year-old woman? Am I doing what I need to be doing within my family? Am I doing what I what I’ve hoped to do in my career, in my community, in my life?”
Henson is responsible for character development instruction for 25,000 high school-age cadets in the Civil Air Patrol. She is also a volunteer with Bugles Across America, playing taps at military funerals.
“I had wanted to go in the military when I was younger, and I had a family member at that point talk me out of it,” she said. “Civil Air Patrol and the bugling is now, at my age, what I have available to give back. I’m too old now to serve in active duty or Reserve military, and being able to go graveside and give those families that measure of honor for the service of their family member is just an incredible feeling.”
Service runs in Henson’s family. Her son Senior Airman Jaric Henson, serves in the 78th Security Forces Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, Ga. Both her husband Richard and daughter Tel are Navy veterans, and her first husband, Timothy E. Langley., was killed while serving as a police officer in Hollywood, Fla.
Between now and the pageant, Henson will speak to schoolchildren about how they can improve their local communities, she said.
“Sometimes the average person gets overwhelmed,” Henson said. “They think a volunteer opportunity has to be something huge. And it doesn’t. A volunteer opportunity can fit very well into activities you’re already interested in. It could be as simple as going and raking a neighbor’s yard or they’re out of town on vacation. It doesn’t have to be a great, big, huge event. It can be a very daily-type event, and I think the more that we look for those small opportunities – actually – the greater of an impact we can have on our community than that, maybe, once-a-year humungous opportunity.”