"Listen to Sharlene Wells Hawkes, former Miss America and ESPN Host, as she shares her current project “Remember my Service.” A project focused on remember the service of the Veterans of the US Military."
Alan: Welcome back I’m here today with Sharlene Wells Hawkes; Sharlene, welcome to today’s show.
Sharlene: Thank you, always great to be with you.
Alan: So Sharlene, let’s start with your background, Miss America fits into your life somewhere right?
Sharlene: 30 years ago we go back three decades on that one. Yes, that was 1984, I was 20 years old, I was a baby. But it was an interesting year, I learned a lot. A lot by trial and error, but great discovery year for me.
Alan: And then you, fast forwarding that, you’re today with ESPN? Well that was I, I worked with ESPN for 16 years, but I left a long time ago, 2005 is the last time that I worked with them. It’s was just I was making a big transition over to business. So, and then of course with children and everything was really too difficult to continue on with that kind of lifestyle.
Alan? So how was it, you know, in juggling career and family? Was it easy for you or what?
Sharlene: Gosh, it was tough! Because I worked with ESPN for for seven years, full-time. And during that time, so, my, three of my four children were born. And so I was really ramping down, it just got harder and harder and harder. And fortunately I had the help of my mom, came over and helped when I had to go off for college football. I did five years of sideline football for Big10. And, so that was every single week I’d be gone three or four days during the football season. And so, that was probably my hardest but then I started ramping down, I just did a lot of freelance work and then went back and got my Masters degree. Finish that in 2005 and then I got into business. So, that's where I really, originally intended of being. But ESPN was kind of a fun sidetrack.
Alan: Just a touch point, not a lot of women worked for ESPN when you started.
Sharlene: No, I was the 3rd woman to work there, on-air.
Alan: And what was that like?
Sharlene: Oh my gosh. You know, I didn’t start out to be a pioneer or anything, I didn’t set out for any of that. I just really loved sports. And I wasn't an expert by any means in sports especially not when it came to data collection. What I loved was the microcosm of life's drama down on the field, the court, the track you know? It was, you just see all these David and Goliath stories and the triumphs against all odds and the, you know, devastating defeats and the amazing comebacks. And that's the part that I loved about being with ESPN, so I got a chance to do a lot of World Cup soccer, I was the reporter, the featured reporter for the US team during that time. The world Alpine championships, Kentucky Derby, French Open a lot of pre-Olympic kind of stuff, college football, so I had a good time.
Alan: Out of all the sports you covered, which was your favorite?
Sharlene: You know, I’d have to say World Cup soccer. Because I was in Argentina 1978, I grew up in South America, I was born in Paraguay.
Sharlene: Oh yes.
Alan: Tell me about this?
Sharlene: Well, so I spent most my formative years in South America. But I was a teenager in 1978 in Buenos Aires Argentina when they hosted, no they didn’t host, they won the World Cup soccer. And the country went wild, and to be right in the middle of that, I mean it was incredible. So I followed soccer ever since then. So, to be able to cover World Cup soccer for about six months in 94, I think it was, was really, really incredible to be on the field during the final Brazil, Italy, ohh that was amazing!
Alan: So, being a South American, you’re fluent in Spanish?
Sharlene: Yes, it’s getting a little rusty you know, it’s been a long time since I’ve been down there, but I grew up speaking Castillano, the Argentine Spanish with a “Scha” sound.
Alan: Now while I’ve got you here, I remember you from Miss America, you, one of your talents was the harp.
Sharlene: The Paraguayan harp, yes because I was born in Asuncion, Paraguay.
Alan: Don’t ask me why I remember that.
Sharlene: Yes, exactly wow. Look at you, yes it was very different. Nobody else playing the Paraguayan harp, nope.
Alan: And you just learned that in your spare time?
Sharlene: Yes, when I was down in Argentina and I was about 12 years old when my dad took me back to Paraguay because I hadn’t been there since I was a baby. So he took me back there, and I just feel in love with the Paraguayan harp, it was such a beautiful sound. Very romantic sound and so I wanted to learn, so we found a Paraguayan harp teacher in Buenos Aires and he would come over to my house to teach me. And so, several years later I got good enough that it could make for a nice presentation for Miss America. And I sang, along with playing the harp and you know it's all about differentiation sometimes. I actually grew up playing the piano, my mom was a concert pianist but there were a lot of other pianists back there so you know, it’s kind of like, what’s going to be different? Well, the Paraguayan harp, so it worked.
Alan: A lot of great culture there.
Sharlene: It’s beautiful, and beautiful people.
Alan: How many brothers and sisters?
Sharlene: There are 7of us, 7 siblings I'm fifth of seven I have two older sisters, to older brothers and then two younger sisters.
Alan: So, you’re right in the middle of the pack?
Sharlene: Well, but I'm the oldest of my mom and dad married. Because my dad was a widower, he had three children and when he met my mom, who had been divorced, and she had a daughter, so they got married and then I came along. So I kind of feel like the oldest of the second batch. We’re a blended family, but I grew up with, you know all my, technically my stepsisters and brothers, but I didn’t feel that, I just felt like their my sisters and brothers.
Alan: I'm here today visiting with Sharlene Wells Hawks, she is a former Miss America, also well-versed experience at ESPN. Sharlene, we need to take a quick break.
Alan: And I want to fast forward this when we get back to Remember my Service, and see what that’s all about.
Sharlene: Oh, thank you.
Alan: And we’ll be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back, I’m here today with Sharlene Wells Hawkes, we’ve been talking about your journey through life, Miss America ESPN and then we’re catching up now to what you’re working on now, Remember my Service. Tell us a little bit about that.
Sharlene: Ah, this has become my passion and I have to say of all the fun things I've able to do my life this is probably my favorite, other than being mom. Mom’s # 1. Because this has been a crazy ride, but I love my kids. But, about 10 years ago I started working for story rock which is a technology company in Salt Lake City. And I came on as the chief marketing officer, and very soon after that where we specialize in digital content management, and we got approached by a general officer of one of the largest geographical commands in the Army Reserve. And he said I need help managing our digital content. I have my public affairs officers that's grabbing content over here photos and videos and newsletters and everything, but I never see it. It’s on some computer somewhere. My historian my soldiers my families they’re all gathering all this content that’s being hidden on computers everywhere, I want to do something with it I need a collection of this, I need to bring it all together and tell our unit’s story, and then give it to my soldiers. And say thank you for your service, here’s what you did, here’s who you served with, here are the sacrifices that were made, the accomplishments that, you know, we did together. And so we did that and it's just exploded for the last 10 years it's grown with now I’ve worked with half the National Guard, we’ve worked with Army divisions with the Navy and more and more of these commands are coming to us to help them tell their story not only for the preservation of their legacy and their history, but because it builds morale. It builds pride and unit cohesion when they all know what they've accomplished together. So gradually over the last few years I’ve really put all my attention on the Remember My Service division of Story Rock. It’s now a wholly owned subsidiary. In fact, that’s what I’m doing out here in San Francisco is, not only speaking tonight but because I'm working with a bunch of companies on sponsorships for some of these commands also sponsorships for some work that we doing for the Department of Defense and their commemorations. We just finished a big project with the Korean War 60th commemoration we’re going to do the same thing for the Vietnam War 50th commemoration.
Alan: Wow, and so getting, getting included into the Remember My Service are that people, soldiers, veterans contacting you, or how do they…?
Sharlene: Yes, we have become kind of sponsor broker, that's not my role necessarily, but we’re kind of the middle man so companies or individuals that want to sponsor upper gate or sponsor our Vietnam War 50th commemoration or something to show their support they contact us and then we match them up. For instance, I got contacted by a woman in Ohio who said my dad served in the Army. She’s a CEO of a company, she said I want to support one of the brigades in the Army. And I said well number one on our list is the 125th Stryker brigade combat team out of Fairbanks Alaska. She's in Ohio, they’re in Alaska, she says great I’ll sponsor them. So she took care of the whole, all 4500 of these soldiers are getting their historical record as athanks from her and from the commanding officers.
Alan: Organizing the, the data that goes in there, how, who runs that process?
Sharlene: You know our team, we have developed such a great process over the years. What we do is, we match up, I have a team of three assigned to every command; I have a project manager, I have a video specialist and our graphic design. And those three work with that command, we give them a checklist of all the stuff that we need. And I just say, here’s all my stuff, it’s like a treasure checklist. You know, you’re going to go out there and find it, bring it all, send it to us, and that usually takes them about 8 weeks. They send that to us and then we go to work, we do all the design layouts we do all the video editing of all the stuff that they send us, all the “B” roll, the interviews and everything. And then we deliver it back to them in a very high-class archival quality with the hardbound book, coffee table book and e-book, a multimedia e-book that is then shared with no restrictions to anybody that they want to help tell their story.
Alan: And you’ll use social media or the website to help them too?
Sharlene” Yes, anything that they want so it’s on its full mobile applications, everything that they need. And we archive everything that we do with the Library of Congress, with the Center of Military History, with the Army Historical Foundation, the Navel Historical Foundation, National Guard Bureau, all of them get it.
Alan: I’m visiting here today with Sharlene Wells hawkes; we've been talking about her current project and role that she's playing at Remember My Service, which is documenting the life of service for a lot of the veterans here in the United States. And Sharlene, we need to take a quick break.
Alan: We’ll come back, and I’ll want to talk more about your passion in life and eventually what do you want. At the end of the day you wanted people to remember you by? We’ll be right back after these messages
Alan: Welcome back in here today with Sharlene Wells Hawks she’s a former Miss America, she’s a former ESPN host for several sporting events and her current project is Remembered My Service which has helped to archive and put together documentaries towards the service towards the veterans that have served in America across all the armed forces-
Sharlene: -In today’s military, yes.
Alan: How did you find your passion in life, or what led you into this?
Sharlene: You know I’ve always been about walking through open doors and never just closing off ever thing either because I was too scared to try it, so if there’s an open door and an opportunity I’m like ‘ok I’m going to try it and give it a shot.’ Because when I was a kid I thought I was going to be a veterinarian and then I thought I was going to be an architect, I never dreamed ESPN because ESPN didn’t exist when I was a teenager. I thought maybe concert pianist of something. So I had all these different ideas but I said, ‘You know what, I’m just going to grab opportunities.’ And one thing led to another and I would just keep grabbing those opportunities. How I found my most current passion was through getting into the work and making sure that I was around people that I really respected, so when I went on with this company now called Story Rock, I went on mostly because of the people and their mission and their mission was to preserve history, and at the time it was with schools, and it was so broad, then once we worked with our first military command, I said, ‘nobody else is preserving their history, they’re having a challenge, everyone else is having a challenge, we can help with this. And the more I dove in, and when you find out that there’s nobody serving a need, then you get really excited, because it’s like I can do this, I can actually make a difference. And when you feel like you make a difference you feel like you have a purpose in life. Not that I didn’t before, but as much as I loved sports, I didn’t feel like that was making a difference in the world, because I was enjoying myself, but I wasn’t really making a difference. And I was seriously on the sidelines of life, not just on the football game, I was watching everybody else do stuff and reporting on it, but it just didn’t personally feel like I was involved. So for me to get personally involved I preserving history, you know they make history every day, our men and women that are serving on our behalf and preserving our way of life and for me to help that their legacy of service is remembered and preserved and that they are able to pass it on, I heard one soldier say, in fact we got it on camera, “You know I don’t know much about my father’s or my grandfather’s service in the army”, because he came from a long line, “but my children and my grandchildren will know about mine”. And that really mattered to him. So everything that we do with the military matters a lot to me and it feel like I’ve found exactly what I’m supposed to do, here I am taking on my half century now, I’m 50 this year.
Alan: Well congratulations
Sharlene: Thank you
Alan: I would say that there is a spiritual aspect to what you’re doing, here these men and women gave everything they had, they laid their life on the line, and then they come out of the service and have a life time to think about it. When I interview people and they talk about their service, an often time there’s a lot of emotion behind the memories of those that didn’t make it.
Sharlene: Oh exactly, it is a brotherhood and sisterhood, its really a unique bonding experience for them that’s very difficult for them to share with others because we don’t know how much they’re going to relate to what they’re telling them. And often they don’t, so what we do is put it in a format that makes it easier for them to share what they have done, it gives them a communication platform. My background is actually not is history, both my degrees are in communications. And communication is so powerful towards the healing process. The more you communicate, the more people understand, and the more they understand the more likely they are to support. And when someone feel supported they feel more resilient. So this connection between communication and resiliency is powerful. So that’s kind of what I’ve been getting into, get right down into the resiliency part of it, tell your story, share your story, help others understand your story, and you will feel more supported.
Alan: Out of all the stories you’ve done, is there one that stands out?
Sharlene: I went over to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009 October is when I went over to Afghanistan, and they took us to a border operating base in Afghanistan near the end of October, and it was 5 miles down the road from command outpost Keeting where two weeks before they had had one of the bloodiest ambushes of the war, eight of our guys were lost, and the survivors had come down to this operating base and we spent two hours talking with them. And it was their first time sharing what had happened, in fact they were really hesitant to talk about it but because of my whole history in communication I knew how important it was to pull it out of them. So they started talking, and I asked one of them, ‘where did you find the courage?’- nine silver stars came out of that and two medal of honor recipients from that one ambush that day. So I asked that soldier, ‘where did you find the courage?’ he said, ‘oh I did not feel courageous, I was scared to death, but I’d been trained to react with courage’. That is so significant, that’s like all of us, we have to train ourselves to react with faith. We can’t just all of the sudden expect, oh I’m going to be courageous when the time comes, you have to plan for when that time comes and be ready for that.
Alan: Sharlene when everything’s said and done, you’ve had a unique path in life, growing up in South America during your informative years, Miss America, ESPN Host, now working on Remember my Service, when everything’s said and done, how do you want to be remembered?
Sharlene: As Mom
Alan: Ok fair enough.
Sharlene: The Best thing I’ve ever done is be a mom. We have four great kids, and my husband we been married 27 years next month. That’s what makes me the happiest. And I learned a lot during my Miss America year, a time of huge discovery and the thing I remember most is that I am not interested in fame. I’m not interested in certain things because I got exposed to it. And I said, ‘Oooo, that’s not a motivator for me’. Most people don’t know that until after they’ve spent thirty years getting there and they go, oh this is it? Fortunately I realized that it would be my family that would mean the most to me. Of all the fun things I’ve been able to do, mom is most important.
Alan: One last note, Remember My Service how does a person get more information on that.
Sharlene: Go to RememberMyService.com and there's lots of ways to contact us there or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alan: I’ve been visiting here today with Sharlene Wells Hawkes and Sharlene thank you so much for being here today.
Sharlene: Thank you it’s great to be here with you.