Once again this year a host of beautiful women dressed in 1940s "pin-up" outfits adorn a retro-style calendar to help raise money for America's wounded warriors. The effort was born of the inspiration these images delivered to the "Greatest Generation" fighting in the battlefields and in the air during World War II in hopes they'd do the same for the post-9/11 military.
Founder Gina Elise began Pin-Ups for Vets 11 years ago at the height of the Iraq War. She saw the horrifying wounds U.S. troops sustained while fighting the Global War On Terrorism and she felt compelled to do something for hospitalized veterans.
And she has.
Elise and her pin-ups raised more than $50,000 for medical and rehabilitation equipment at VA hospitals all over the country since she started her nonprofit.
This year, she's back with a new calendar full of veterans in their full pin-up glory. Her retinue includes veterans from every branch of the military as well as male vets in similar classic styles.
"We shot with a DC-3, at a fire museum, at a train museum. We like to have really unique backgrounds," Elise says. "The calendar is going to be hanging for a month. It's going to be hanging in hospital rooms and in barracks with our deployed troops, so I want it to be very colorful and happy; something that can bring some joy when someone looks at it."
The calendar brings more than just a visual pick-me-up as the money raised from sales also helps fund visits by the pin-up models to hospitalized veterans. And the pin-ups who do the hospital visits are often veterans themselves.
"We have 24 veterans featured in our 2017 edition," says Elise. "Their total combined service is 162 years."
Elise and other Pin-Ups for Vets have visited about 10,000 veterans at VA and military hospitals so far, with more on the schedule.
A Marine Corps veteran who deployed twice to Iraq, pin-up Vana Bell appreciates Elise's vision and is enthusiastic about the organization's cause.
"I'm comfortable in sweats, I rarely wear makeup, I wear glasses, and my hair is usually in a ponytail," Bell says. "To see those professional shots leaves me kind of awestruck. Who's that girl they managed to uncover?"
The annual calendar even features some veteran celebrities as well. Mark Valley and Maximilian Uriarte of "Terminal Lance" fame appeared in previous editions. And this year YouTube star, beauty expert, and Army veteran Dulce Candy is Miss August 2017.
"She's really this incredible Army veteran that's doing some pretty big time things, so we're very lucky to have her," Elise says. "She was a generator mechanic when she was in the Army. She deployed, came back, and became a superstar beauty blogger."
Veterans interested in being part of Pin-Ups for Vets should start with the organization's website. Any veterans interested in being part of the 2018 calendar should follow Pin-Ups for Vets on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and keep an eye out for the casting call.