Miss America to appear at 2009 Army Ball

LONG BEACH, Calif. Soldiers sent to Iraq and Afghanistan often don't get to return home for long stretches of time, sometimes up to a year.

Since Southern California has one of the largest populations of veterans serving overseas, a local organization that supports the armed forces wants to honor them in a big way.

The non-profit Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the United States Army is sponsoring the 2009 Army Ball, a gala black-tie event.

Soldiers, including members of the California National Guard and the Army Reserve, and their spouses can attend for free.

Katie Stam, who was crowned Miss America in January, will take part in the ball, one of many ceremonies she's taken part in honoring the armed forces.

"It's an opportunity for soldiers who have been deployed out of Southern California," said Miss America Katie Stam. "They've come back, it's a tough economy, a lot of negative things going on. This is an opportunity for them to have a night off, to come and celebrate and be honored."

Stam said she's kept busy meeting soldiers at hospitals and army bases since she was crowned Miss America. And she says this year's Army Ball is more than a night out for many of the soldiers.

"We actually had a soldier from last year say it's the best prom he ever went to," said Stam. "So it's really what it is. It's a four-course meal, lots of great live entertainment, dancing, and just really a big party is what it comes down to."

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