Gina Elise of Pin-Ups for Vets did it again.
Her non-profit organization helps hospitalized veterans, sends gifts to deployed troops, and supports the spouses and families of service members.
Recently, that support went to Melissa Comeau, an advocate for military caregivers and wife of U.S. Marine and Purple Heart recipient Stephen Comeau.
As a full-time caregiver to her husband, Comeau had little time to focus on her own wellbeing. So Elise decided it was time for a little pick-me-up in the form of a full-fledged makeover in classic Pin-Up style.
"When I first met Melissa, I could tell she was very special, and I wanted to do something to show our appreciation to the caregiver of one of our Marines," Elise told We Are The Mighty.
When Comeau's husband Stephen left for his fourth combat deployment, she prepared herself for the worst — but it never occurred to her to prepare for him to come home with a brain injury.
When he returned, Stephen was diagnosed with multiple combat injuries including traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, osteoarthritis, and degenerative disc disease.
Together, Melissa and Stephen researched his diagnoses and soon discovered that there is a significant difference between being a supportive wife and being a caregiver.
"I didn't know I was a caregiver. I just thought of myself as his wife, doing what anyone would do," Comeau explained. "But once I learned about that word, it opened up a new world."
Comeau became a fellow for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, which helps strengthen and empower American military caregivers, and now works at the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network, helping people identify as caregivers sooner and providing them with peer-to-peer support and assistance.
After meeting Comeau, Pin-Ups for Vets' Elise knew she wanted to do something to show her appreciation.
So Elise delivered a pin-up makeover for Comeau — complete with classic hair and make-up styling by Ana Vergara, vintage-inspired dresses by Voodoo Vixen, and a professional photoshoot by Jason Holmes of Retro Dolls.
Elise couldn't wait to reveal Comeau's pin-up look.
"It was a special moment when Melissa first saw herself in the mirror," Elise said. "How we appear affects our confidence and this makeover brought out Melissa's inner bombshell. I could see the shift towards happiness and excitement in that moment."
According to Comeau, it's tough to look after yourself when you're focused on caring for others. As a mentor, she teaches, "If you take care of yourself, it makes you better for everyone. It all starts with you — and if you don't nurture yourself, you'll burn out."
That's why Elise was inspired to reach out to Comeau.
"I always want to bring awareness and attention to military families and the sacrifices they make," Elise said. "Our military would be impossible without support from loved ones and it's important to acknowledge that."