Deshauna Barber, moments after being crowned Miss USA. (Photo courtesy Instagram/missusa)
This year’s Miss USA is exceptional not just for her looks and dance moves that helped to net her the crown, but also for her continued service in the U.S. Army and dedication to her family. Deshauna Barber, born in Columbus, Georgia, and an alum of Virginia State University in Petersburg, is an Army Reserve officer working as an IT analyst in Washington, D.C. She competed on a hotly debated national topic in support of women serving in combat roles in the military. “As a commander of my unit, I'm powerful, I am dedicated and it is important that we recognize that gender does not limit us in the United States,” she said proudly on stage.
She chimed into another conversation that’s happening in regard to the U.S. military about mental health. With somewhere between 11 and 20 percent of troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and a surge in veteran suicide in recent years, Barber’s promise to campaign for returning veterans struck a chord with the judges who awarded her the title.
Even though Barber enlisted at the early age of 17, she still managed to get a bachelor’s degree in business management from VSU. University President Makola M. Abdullah wasn’t serving at the institution during Barber’s education there, but said in a phone interview, ”she’s a scholar, she’s a leader and, like she said, she’s beautiful because she’s confident in everything that she does.”
Freda Thomas, the administrative assistant for the ROTC program at VSU which Barber was a part of, says “She really wanted to carry the torch” for the ROTC program while she attended the university. Both administrators said they intend on using Barber as a role model for incoming students, and are looking forward to having her visit the campus, to showcase the potential for graduates from VSU.
"Attention: First Lieutenant Deshauna Barber is reporting for duty as #MissUSA 2016," reads a @missusa Instagram post added after Barber's win. (Photo courtesy Instagram/@missusa)
Barber has said that she’ll be taking a break from her duties in the Army Reserves following her win, but that she’ll use her newfound title to help spread awareness for mental health issues plaguing the military.