Last month I discovered the organization Pin-Ups for Vets in a somewhat controversial post. No, they don’t dress up and photograph cats, dogs and lizards to decorate the walls of your veterinarian’s office. Pin-Ups for Vets raises awareness and dollars for our military veterans to include providing them with much needed medical equipment. The writer proclaimed that Pin-Ups for Vets uses sex to fundraise. Now, the hubs and I ride a Harley. We have a room dedicated to our love of riding and among the décor exists images like those produced by Pin-Ups for Vets. I find the pin-up model a work of art – drawn or otherwise. Our engagement photos were inspired by Bettie Page as a matter of fact. Others disagree on the idea of pin-up as art and after reading the article and the comments, it was apparent there exists a divide on the way founder, Gina Elise chooses to express her commitment to giving back. In reading the author’s words, I felt this was the very type of cyber-bullying many of us in the military spouse community are trying to combat. You don’t have to agree, and it will be no surprise, I made my opinion known. Privately, I received messages about the insecurity wives feel around these Pin-Ups and this made me open my eyes to a bigger problem that exists in our community – lack of security in one’s self and one’s marriage. This exists everywhere, of course. We just have such a magnifying glass on it in our microcosm among military spouses (heck there were even TV shows about it, but that’s a post for another day). Now, let me be clear: I do not feel the author implied this about herself, however, behind closed doors others are definitely feeling this way.
A week later, the site invited Gina to counter in a guest post and I applaud them for doing so. Not many others would have and I really give it to Gina for being such a class-act. When I found out Pin-Ups for Vets is in my area I knew I wanted to be involved. I reached out to Gina and asked if she would agree to be interviewed for the blog. I was tickled when she said yes. I hope to make it to an event before we move and I will be supporting from afar once we do.
Let’s get started and be sure to watch the YouTube video below – and grab a tissue!
Thank you for taking the time for our interview. First I’d like to also thank you for what you are doing for veterans and for your service. I know you and many of the Pin-Ups for Vets members are also veterans. For those who aren’t in the know, would you tell me a little about Pin-Ups for Vets and how the idea came to be?
In 2006, I started seeing news articles about under-funded Veterans’ healthcare programs. Then, there were stories about older Veterans who lay in bed day after day, never receiving any visitors. Reports started surfacing on TV about the severe injuries sustained by our troops fighting overseas. The more I heard about the uphill battles of our Wounded Warriors, the more convinced I was of the need to produce a project that would bring in funds to support our hospitalized Veterans and Troops. My late Grandpa Lou served in the Army for 4 years during World War II. I wanted to do something to honor his name. I always loved the romance of those bygone eras – especially the 1940’s – and I drew inspiration from the World War II pin-up girls, whose photos and paintings boosted morale for our soldiers fighting overseas. I created our first fundraiser pin-up calendar back in 2006. Fast forward 10 years and we will be releasing our 10th Anniversary Edition calendar for 2016! To date, we have donated over $50,000 worth of state-of-the-art rehab equipment for VA & Military hospitals nationwide. We are also in the middle of a 50-state VA and Military hospital tour where we bring in donated calendars as gifts of appreciation to our hospitalized Veterans and Wounded Warriors. We have individually visited over 7,000 ill and injured Veterans at their bedsides in 51 VA Hospitals, Military hospitals & State Veterans Homes in 29 states across the US. We have visited our Wounded Warriors at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. We have also done morale-boosting visits to our service members at 23 military bases. Our organization has received Congressional Recognition and numerous community service awards. Our troops have flown 9 flags over military bases and on missions in Iraq and Afghanistan in honor of the work we do to support our Nation’s heroes.
Why Pin-Ups and not another theme that some may find less provocative?
Pin-Up is a beautiful American art form. Pin-ups were painted on aircraft during WWII to boost the morale of the G.I.’s and remind them of what they were fighting for back home. I do not find pin-ups provocative. I find the art form to be a beautiful celebration of women, an art form that I wanted to honor.
There are thoughts that you “use sex” to fundraise. Others mentioned a dislike of the Pin-Ups flirting with their husbands. How do you respond to these statements?
There is a gigantic difference between sex and being sexy. In fact, our volunteers (many of whom are female Veterans) were incredibly hurt by those statements. I know that posing for the calendar has been a very positive experience in their life. They feel beautiful, empowered and strong. I was reading an article not long about the devaluation of femininity. It was basically talking about how we live in a culture that strives for equality, but at the same time, elevates masculinity and masculine traits. Why should we tone down our femininity to be successful? Why should we not embrace the specific qualities that make us who we are? Why can’t we feel sexy and feminine if that’s what makes us happy? When one of our female Veteran models, Jovane Henry, who is a US Marine Veteran, was being interviewed a few months back, she said, “There’s no hard and fast rule why I can’t be a hard-charging Marine and a lipstick-wearing pin-up. So I chose to be both.” If we want to embrace our feminine side, I say, why not? It is something to be celebrated. As far as statements about “flirting with husbands”, this is almost too ridiculous for me to even spend time on. Our volunteers are classy, intelligent, compassionate, articulate, professional women who are leaders and role models in their communities and I will not stand for the shaming of them. I am proud to be associated with them, as they are true gems in this world. They give so much, and their dedication to improve the lives of our Nation’s Heroes is something that should be applauded.
What is the most important message you’d like to spread through your work?
I try my best to set a good example for others. I hope that when our supporters see what we are doing, they are inspired to give back to their communities. I am a huge proponent of action; of taking an idea and executing it thoughtfully. It’s important to not just “talk the talk”, but to also “walk the walk.” If you say you are going to do something, find a way to do it. People will support you if they believe in your mission and if they see the impact you are making. Pin-Ups For Vets is my unique way to serve a group of people that hold a very special place in my heart. Our Veterans and Troops are true American Heroes. They quietly sacrifice so much so that we can live the way we do. I feel incredibly lucky to spend my life around such humble, resilient, and inspirational people. I learn from them everyday, as I see a very special strength in them. It takes a certain type of person to be willing to sacrifice so much for a greater good. We can learn so much from our Veterans and I hope that my work has helped to bring attention to them and how we can help to make their lives better, after all they have done for us as a nation.
How can readers become involved or donate?
Readers can visit the website www.pinupsforvets.com to get more info. While there, be sure to order a calendar for yourself or donate one for a hospitalized Veteran or deployed service member! Thank you so much for your support!
Authors Note: Another thanks to Gina for her service, her time and her efforts on behalf of the men and women who have served our country. Watch more here: