We know that when an organization becomes successful there are often people who want to put it in a negative light. We want the SpouseBuzz readers to know that our Pin-Ups For Vets Ambassadors are very proud to be serving in this way. They are aware of the history of the “pin-up” and of WWII nose-art, and do not feel that they are being exploited as women. In fact, they feel empowered, strong, and beautiful to be able to use the pin-up concept to do good for our Nation’s Heroes in the hospitals, in the shelters, and in the combat zones. They are embracing their womanhood and femininity to bring joy and happiness where it is most needed.
And that’s a good thing.
As founder of national award-winning nonprofit, Pin-Ups For Vets, I am thrilled to be a guest blogger on SpouseBuzz. I created the first Pin-Ups For Vets fundraiser calendar in 2006, as a way to help support our VA and Military hospitals that were experiencing a big influx of ill and injured troops from the Iraq war. My own grandfather was a Veteran of WWII, who proudly served in the Army Air Corps, and thus the theme of this vintage-style calendar project pays honor to his service and the nose art that inspired the air crews during the 40s. What began as a simple 40s-style pin-up fundraiser calendar, almost a decade ago, has blossomed into so much more.
We are very proud to have been honored by the US Congress, Oprah Winfrey, the Daily Points of Light Foundation, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, the CA Junior Chamber of Commerce and CA Jaycees Foundation, the Los Angeles Business Journal, the National Association of Women Business Owners, and America’s deployed troops who have flown 9 US flags over military bases for the positive work we are doing.
We are humbled by the honors that we have received. However, it is the impact of our work that makes us most proud. Our Pin-Ups For Vets Ambassadors, who help us accomplish our mission, are made up of Veterans from all branches of the service, patriotic civilians, military wives and military mothers. These special ladies give freely of their time because they believe so strongly in our mission to improve the quality of life for our hospitalized Veterans and deployed troops. Our 1940s-style Ambassadors have joined us on our 50-state VA Hospital tour where we have visited over 7,000 hospitalized Veterans to boost morale and deliver appreciation gifts in VA Hospitals, Military Hospitals, and State Veterans Homes across the U.S. and Germany.
Our compassionate Pin-Ups For Vets Ambassadors have witnessed incredible moments during our tour. From the Veteran who had suffered a TBI and finally spoke his first words in a month, as we visited his bedside, to a combat Marine, who wrote to us many years after our visit with these words, “To go from being a highly regarded Marine Infantryman in combat to a patient on a locked psychiatric ward was one of the most de-humanizing experiences I have ever been through. I was the only veteran from the Iraq War there. I felt weak, embarrassed and lonely, but your calendar and your visit made me feel a little bit like a hero again.”
We often hear the patients exclaim, “When you are here, my pain is gone.”
The Chief of Volunteer Services at the Oklahoma Hospital VA wrote “The impact of the time you took to providing a smile, good conversation, and most importantly, the recognition to our valuable veterans is not expressible by mere words. Your visit was simply the best visit I have been a part of since my beginning as Voluntary Services Chief.”
A recreational therapist at the Los Anegles VA Hospital wrote about our visit, “Overall the Veterans’ quality of life increases and their spirits are so uplifted. I personally can see an improvement in their cognitive, physical, and social functioning. Still to this day, the Vets talk about the day when the lovely ladies came to visit, and they absolutely love their calendars which are hung all over their rooms.”
The Pin-Ups For Vets annual fundraiser calendar has been described as “classy vintage”. We try to be very authentic to the 1940s aesthetic. This calendar that gets shipped to our supporters worldwide, uses the concept of the “pin-up” to raise much needed funds that have allowed us to purchase state-of-the-art rehab equipment and to improve the programs at VA and Military hospitals.
In addition, our nonprofit has shipped countless morale-boosting care packages filled with our delicious brownies and blondies and calendars to provide a little “touch of home” for our troops so far away. We constantly receive letters of thanks and photos from the troops who are happy to be remembered.
We have partnered with Goodwill and US Vets to provide makeovers, gifts, clothing, make-up and motivational speeches to our homeless Veterans trying to get back on their feet.
We are very aware that our military spouses sacrifice much while their loved ones are deployed. Pin-Ups For Vets has pampered a number of military wives with glamorous makeovers, clothing, photo shoots, gift certificates, and dinner to help show our appreciation to these special ladies. Our local news stations have captured these touching events where our military spouses often weep because they have given so much to others, but often neglect themselves.
Many of our Pin-Ups For Vets Ambassadors openly say that their service with us has greatly improved and enriched their own lives. Our Veteran volunteers love serving their fellow Veterans. The VA hospital patients just open up to them, once they realize that the pin-ups have also served our country. Our ladies’ hearts are in the right places. Whether they are single or married, they are committed to joining us as beautiful Pin-Ups For Vets Ambassadors because they know that they can make a difference in the Veteran and Military communities.
Gina Elise is founder of the award-winning national nonprofit organization, Pin-Ups For Vets (www.pinupsforvets.com). In 2006, she created a unique organization that produces nostalgic WWII-style pin-up calendars that raise money to support Veteran and Troop initiatives. Gina Elise has been dubbed the "Betty Grable for a New Generation” and the “Calendar Angel” because of her unique work to improve the quality of life for hospitalized Veterans across the U.S. and for our Nation’s Heroes overseas. She has been credited with making volunteerism glamorous.
Editor's note: Some SpouseBuzz readers felt my original Pin-Up for Vets post was unfair. That post was an opinion piece and I stand by it. But at SpouseBuzz we also realize that there are two sides to every coin, which is why we are always open to running a post highlighting the other side of any given story.