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JBLM service members walk fashion runway

Northwest Guardian

Published: 05:54PM July 17th, 2014

Active and retired service members hit the catwalk during a fashion show held at the Lewis Main Exchange on Joint Base Lewis McChord.

While the 10 models moved like professionals, they were actually JBLM service members and veterans. The women participated in “Salute the Runway” by showing off black dresses that can be purchased at the Exchange. The fashion show was a partnership event between two vendors — Fatigues to Fabulous and Little Black Dress Wines.

Fatigues to Fabulous is a national organization designed to support women serving in the military and the issues faced by female veterans.

“Because females in the military can often times be overlooked and our issues with transitioning are unique to our male counterparts,” Leslie Nicole Smith, Fatigues to Fashion spokesperson said. “What we are also trying to do is show female veterans and service members who are transitioning that you can dress for success right there from your own Exchange.”

California wine company Little Black Dress Wines approached the organization to create the event to raise awareness and show support for female service members and veterans who are transitioning out of the military.

As a bonus, each model was allowed to keep her dress and take home a bottle of wine. The intent of the designs was to make the dresses appropriate for use in workplaces or at social events.

After the models showed off their dresses, the wine company selected a winner at random to attend Fashion Week in New York City. Army Sgt. Kisha Cody won that honor.

“When I heard her say my name I said, ‘Oh my God that’s me, that’s my name,’” Cody said.

Cody has visited Rochester, N.Y., but said she looks forward to experiencing Fashion Week with her fiancée, Sgt. Shecoma Watts.

This is the third Salute the Runway to take place; the previous two were held in Texas at Fort Bliss and Fort Hood.

Lindsay Tsirlign, the wine company manager, said she’s received a lot of positive feedback from service members and veterans applauding the program.

“We’ve gotten a lot of veterans saying they wish that something like this existed back when they were on active duty,” she said. “This gives them confidence that says I am much more than just my job and I am a woman and I am beautiful.”

Smith said for her, the JBLM event ranked with her most memorable experiences.

“It’s life changing,” she said. “From my own experience it’s definitely life changing. It’s something you will never forget.”

Smith was no stranger to walking the runway. She also modeled in Lifetime’s Project Runway’s All Stars “Stars and Stripes” episode.

The retired Army captain was serving in Bosnia in 2001 when she got a blood clot that resulted in the loss of her left leg and sight.

“So with all that, I was medically retired from the Army,” Smith said. “But it gave me a whole new purpose and mission and even though I couldn’t wear the uniform anymore and fight the fight I had a new purpose and new mission.”