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Miss North Carolina USA visits Hefner VA

By Margaret Young

intern@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Miss North Carolina USA Caelynn Miller-Keyes used to be very shy. When she started competing in pageants her senior year of high school, she found her voice.

Jai-Leah Miller Kamenicky, Miller-Keys’ mother, said pageants helped her daughter find herself and figure out who she is as a person.

Since becoming Miss North Carolina USA, Miller-Keyes has advocated for sexual assault awareness to improve Title 9 policies for survivors. As a survivor herself, she aims to inspire women and men to speak up for themselves if they experience any type of injustice.

“She’s not afraid to speak up anymore. She will stand up and say what needs to be done,” said Kamenicky.

Miller-Keyes visited Hefner VA Medical Center on Monday afternoon to tour the community living center and visit with patients. She also announced that going forward, she will advocate for veterans’ dental care and add the issue to her pageant platform.

“Ninety-five to 96 percent of veterans don’t have any dental care, which is something that we take for granted,” Miller-Keyes said. “I want to make a change if I can.”

This issue was brought to her attention after Tom Morgan, a member of Patriot Veteran Reformers, reached out.

Patriot Veterans Reformers is an all-volunteer association of veterans and their supporters committed to VA reforms through information sharing and gathering.

“This is a national issue, but it starts right here in North Carolina,” Morgan said.

U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr are working to improve veterans’ dental care, he said.

According to Morgan, only about 5.5 percent of veterans qualify for dental care.

Miller-Keyes’ visit brought surprise and happiness to many of the patients at the Hefner center.

“It was a great surprise,” said Salisbury native Ronald Barker.

Miller-Keyes said her own grandfather served in Vietnam, so veterans have always been important to her. During her tour of the facilities, she greeted patients and staff members with a smile while expressing her gratitude. She said she was happy to brighten the day of those who served her country.

Contact intern Margaret Young at 704-797-4249.

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