“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
When you are 8 years old you have your WHOLE life ahead of you to learn lessons but when you are Justin, you want your daddy to show you how to throw the perfect curveball or Kristen who wants her mommy to teach her how to put in a ponytail however Justin’s father Capt. Mark Stubenhoffer was killed in Iraq in 2004 and Kristen’s mother 1st Lt Florence Chou was killed in Afghanistan in 2007. They are 2 of the more than 5000 children that lost a parent due to combat while serving our country. As Mrs. California I have continued my life’s passion of supporting the families of our fallen during their journey. Whether it’s been through my Outing with the Angels events, Financial Literacy Program or simply spending time together I have come to love and appreciate each family I have met. Being a military wife has allowed me to be a part of the largest family in the world and family shouldn’t end with death – that is when we should become more strong and resolute in our support of each other.I have met some of my best friends along my journey to becoming Mrs. California International, there have been ups and downs and I am blessed beyond measure to have had this opportunity.
Just 11 months ago I was standing on stage hoping, praying and I’m quite sure not breathing as they announced the new Mrs. California; As I heard my name I went numb and blank until I saw my husband walking towards me, as he hugged me all I could say was WE DID IT. September 8, 2012 was the night my dream of representing my state at Mrs. International came true. I am truly blessed to have worn this beautiful crown and carried the title of Mrs. California International, representing military families and honoring families of our fallen service members. I have participated in events, run races and traveled more than 20,000 miles across this beautiful state and country to promote my platform of Supporting Families of our Fallen heroes through the Got Your Back Network, T.A.P.S and many other wonderful organizations.
This year has been nothing short of amazing. I have had the honor of meeting the Second Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden, coordinated events for children of our fallen heroes and raised much needed funds. With over 50 events, my memories will always be plentiful but a few that will always be cherished are: Project Gratitude 4, Wreaths Across America, The Jonathan Jacques Champions of Life Torch Run, Snowball Express, Mule Days and the Military Spouse of the Year Summit where I was awarded the California Military Spouse of the Year.
To my sponsors: Bryan K Osborn Collections, Avanti Printing, Some Like it Shot Photography, GS Visual, Natalia Lopez at The City Salon, Austin Ryde, Kara Knudson, Rachel Tinker at Burke Williams Salon, The Bar Method, Gold Coast Veteran’s Foundation, JPW Freight, and Red, White & Blue Warriors this year wouldn’t have been possible without your generous support. I thank the wonderful people of this state and beyond that I have met and spoken with this year; I have witnessed true patriotism and generosity that I take with me as I open the next chapter of my life.
To the families of our fallen: Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your family, you each inspire me every day to live life, to dream big and follow those dreams. This year has been about each of you, your journey and how I have been able to be a part of it through events and life. Today is not the end of that yet a step forward with new opportunity.
Tiffany: I am honored to know you, who would have thought in those shared those moments before crowning that we would be sharing our year together. YOU are an amazing woman and I love you for every moment of the last year.
Jayne: I have loved watching your senior year, your cheerleading tryouts and all that you have done. The sky is the limit for you and I know you will reach it.
I couldn’t have done it without the continual, unconditional love and support from my family.
Mom, Dad, Krista, Travis, Renee and Grandma; for 25 years you have watched me dream - here I am, Mrs. California! I hope that I have made you proud.
Diana: my other mom, thank you for being there, listening to me, creating my wardrobe and loving me like a daughter.
Krystina: my little bug, thank you for accompanying me to events and straightening my crown, reminding me to smile. You are the reason I am who I am.
Lastly, but with the utmost importance: My loving husband and best friend, Grant thank you for calming my nerves, loving me in a way I thought was only in fairytales, listening to my countless speeches, proof reading everything (more than once) and reminding me that I am just one person doing the best I can. I love you more than words.
To Mrs. California International 2014, this year will be what you make of it, so make it count- remember to be humbled and to work hard, you do have the power to make a difference in the lives of others and serve a cause greater than yourself. I know I reached out to so many lives, because each of those lives touched mine more than they could imagine. This has truly been the time of my life, a year I will remember fondly, and cherish always. I cannot thank you all enough for making my year and dream of being Mrs. California International a reality.
As I take my final walk as your reigning titleholder, I will always be Shana Smith, Mrs. California International 2013.