53d Wing spouse is Florida’s most beautiful Mrs.

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Chyenne A. Griffin
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Melissa Behnke is no stranger to the spotlight - she's a professional actress, singer, and dancer who has performed with various celebrities all over the world in theatrical shows, television specials, game shows and movies. She's also the wife of a fighter pilot, an avid community volunteer, and a spokeswoman for many good causes.

Mrs. Behnke is also a beauty queen, proven by her latest accomplishment - being crowned Mrs. Florida Galaxy 2008.

This isn't her first title either; she has held titles in the Miss America, Miss USA, and Mrs. pageants. She is a former "Mrs. Texas International" and "Beauties of America" national winner and is half of the reigning "Florida's Perfect Couple" at the Mrs. Florida United States Pageant, a coveted title which she won with her husband, Lt. Col. Thomas Behnke, 53rd Test Support Squadron commander.

"These pageants celebrate the accomplishments of married, involved, active women," said Mrs. Behnke. "You have an opportunity to learn so much and to give back to the community, I look at it as a public service job and I love that aspect."

Mrs. Behnke has had nearly as many world travels as her pilot husband, and has made use of her time at every location from Italy through Texas, Tokyo, Seoul, Monte Carlo, Kansas, Florida and more by advocating various causes. While living in Italy, she founded the "International Women's Organization," an outreach Bible study ministry benefiting women in need, as well as providing assistance to charities.

Her time in the states has been used to champion two main causes - support to the military and children's health and well-being.

"My main passion is the children of this nation and the decline of their overall health and well-being," said Mrs. Florida. "The number of preventable diseases that only adults used to have that are now filtering down to our children is unbelievable. Especially when such simple steps can be taken, such as cutting out fast food for healthier eating, and sending children outside to play to promote a more active lifestyle."

Mrs. Behnke organized a children's wellness committee called H.E.A.L. Our Children, which stands for healthy eating and active lifestyles. This committee brings together school board members, pediatricians, nutritionists and concerned volunteers from the local community to create awareness about the health issues children are facing, how to go about improving their overall well-being, and preventing disease through nutrition and exercise.

She also spends a lot of her time in schools talking directly to children and parents and conducting workshops to teach better lifestyle habits; such as incorporating fitness into easy, fun games that children and adults enjoy.

On top of that, there are several other organizations in the community that deal with children's causes she's involved with, including SWAT, which stands for Students Working Against Tobacco. SWAT fights against tobacco company marketing they feel targets today's youth. Mrs. Behnke also donates her time to Girls, Inc., which empowers young ladies to be strong, smart and bold.

"These kids are passionate about what they do," she said. "I love to be around all of them; it makes me feel like I have about 100 kids and I'm so proud of each of them!"

Equal to her love for children's causes is her love for the military. "I can't imagine a more noble and worthwhile occupation than defending our freedom and our awesome country that we love so dearly," said the military spouse in a recent article she wrote to encourage fellow spouses of deployed service members.

Married to the military for nearly ten years now, the Behnke couple said they support each other in every endeavor.

"Tom has missed only one event in all these years, and that was due to a short-notice deployment," said Mrs. Behnke. "Other than that, he's been beside me every step of the way and I wouldn't want to do it without him. It wouldn't be fun anyway, but I probably just could not do it without his support."

Colonel Behnke shares similar feelings for his wife, saying she's gone out of her way to support his military career and brighten the lives of other servicemembers. Some of this has been done through their multitude of visits to various military medical facilities.

"I remember on this one particular trip we walked in to visit, with no idea what the mindset of these wounded soldiers would be," said Colonel Behnke. "Melissa put the crown on and their faces just lit up getting to visit with her."

Mrs. Florida says she's extremely honored to be able to use her title in such ways - whether to encourage wounded servicemembers or sick children, or using her title to campaign local businesses for support to those causes.

"I really feel like pageantry has brought so much into my life - friendships, confidence, skills. And, most importantly, the title provides a vehicle to deliver these important messages; while also providing an effective means to garner support for the cause."

Mrs. Behnke, as the new Mrs. Florida Galaxy 2008, will represent Florida and compete against ladies from all over the world and the United States for the Mrs. International Galaxy pageant crown in Orlando, July 30 through Aug. 3.