The new Miss America, whose father is a disabled Vietnam veteran, says she hopes to use her crown to spotlight homelessness among veterans.
Heather Renee French, 24, of Maysville, Ky., a graduate design student who has done volunteer work for the Veterans Administration, will campaign for increased government assistance for down-and-out veterans during her reign.
"We have over 250,000 homeless veterans, spread nationwide," she said Sunday, a day after the former Miss Kentucky won the Miss America title. "A large population, of course, are in Washington, D.C., and in large cities. You find they congregate in the larger areas because that's where the facilities are that treat those needs."
Her father, Ron French, 52, served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam and was wounded in combat. He said he believes his daughter will make a difference as a high-profile spokeswoman for veterans.
"I've already heard from six or seven (veterans) just since last night. They said they're really grateful that someone like her can be a spokesperson for them. It's about time the veterans had a spokesperson," he said.