Pinups for Vets
Supporting Injured Vets: Part 2
By Daniel Muniz
National Summary continues its interview with Gina Elise about “Pin-Ups For Vets” project from Part 1.
In addition to Elise showing her appreciation to the people who has served their country in our armed forces, her project is also a great fundraiser for our injured vets and a morale booster to all of our troops deployed overseas.
As stated in her web site, the purpose of her project would be threefold:
- The calendars would be sold to raise funds for our hospitalized Veterans.
- The calendars would be delivered as gifts to our ill and injured Veterans with messages of appreciation from the donors.
- The calendars would be sent to our deployed troops to help boost morale and to let them know that Americans back home are thinking of them.
Continuing from where we left off in Part 1, below is the rest of the interview with Gina Elise.
Web Site: PinUpsForVets.com
Q. If you could just name a few, describe the responses from vets that you found to be the most awe-inspiring.
Are you referring to the marriage proposal I received from the troops that you can see on the “In the Field” pages of my website? Well, that was pretty awe-inspiring, I would have to say! Well, to be honest, every letter I receive from a veteran is such a heartfelt response to the project! I invite you to visit the “In the Field” pages and click on all the photos to read some of the many inspirational messages I have received from veterans and deployed troops.
Those awe-inspiring messages are just too numerous to mention. I have also received so many letters through the mail that there just isn’t enough space here to reprint them all. Basically, the theme running through all these letters and e-mails is that the “Pin-Ups For Vets” calendar project has given a huge morale boost to the deployed troops. They appreciate so very much this support from the home front. The veterans and troops have written to tell me over and over how appreciative they are for the work being done in this project to support our hospitalized veterans.
Q. And what kind of reactions did you get from the hospitalized vets that you have personally visited.
The vets are totally charming! They flirt and they sing for me and tell me jokes. Here I am coming into the hospitals to bring a smile to them, and they wind up making me laugh and smile. These veterans are such sweethearts that I believe that I always come away with more than I have given them. The vets are always surprised to get the calendar gifts from the donors with personal messages of appreciation.
I have seen that it makes such an impact on them to know that they have not been forgotten and that they are appreciated for their service to our country. I really enjoy reading to them the special messages attached to each of the calendars! They also like meeting the calendar girl in the calendar and always ask for autographs on their calendars or they want me to write happy birthday messages on the date of their birthdays. I have even been asked to put lipstick kisses on lots of calendars!
I would post lots more pictures of my visits to the VA and military hospitals, but due to confidentiality laws and photo release restrictions, etc., I am not able to post pictures of most of my visits to the hospitals. I have to respect the privacy of all these patients. From our young Wounded Warriors recovering in military hospitals, to our Gulf War vets, to our Vietnam veterans, to our Korean War veterans, and to our surviving veterans from World War II, and to those who have served in peace time, I have enjoyed meeting and talking to each and every one of them.
Q. Out of all the photography that you have done for your calendars, which pictures have been the most popular among your fans?
Well, as I said before, the “Pin-Ups For Vets” calendars offer something for every preference. With the changes in hair color and the various costume changes, I honestly get such diverse responses from the fans regarding their favorite photos that I cannot tell you which photos have been the most popular.
I will tell you though that after the firefighters in Iraq received the 2007 “Pin-Ups For Vets” calendars, some of them wrote to ask me if I could do a special photo in the next calendar especially for the firefighters. I took that request seriously and I did a special photo for them that appear in the 2008 calendar for the month of September. It was my way to honor and acknowledge these brave firefighters in Iraq for the very difficult work they do! They wrote to me and told me how much they love the firefighter pin-up photos on my website and in the calendar!
I also try to honor the different branches of the military. The 2007 calendar featured the army pin-up girl and the navy pin-up girl. The 2008 calendar highlights the air force pin-up girl. The 2008 calendar cover features a sailor girl.
Q. You have received American flags that were flown by military units in Iraq in honor of the “Pin-Ups For Vets” project. Tell us more about that and how did you react when you received them.
These three certificates of appreciation from the troops and the three American flags– that have been flown in my honor over various military bases and carried in combat support planes in and over Iraq– have to be the most inspirational gifts I have ever received! I have just been so honored by these acts of kindness from our brave heroes in response to the “Pin-Ups For Vets” calendar project.
I really cannot put it into words how I have felt when I open these boxes and see these beautifully folded flags that have once flown over bases of our active duty military and carried in the skies over Iraq. I am so very grateful to see the outpouring of response from the troops for the calendar project. I never expected when I started out with this idea to help our troops and hospitalized veterans that it would touch so many people in such a positive way. I am so grateful for these beautiful flags and I will cherish them forever!
Q. You were also selected as an “Outstanding Young Californian” by the California Jaycees Foundation and the California Junior Chamber of Commerce. How did that come about and how did you react when you were notified of this honor?
As I have mentioned before, I am so appreciative of all the internet bloggers who have reported on the “Pin-Ups For Vets” calendar project. They have done such an awesome job of helping me spread the word about this project to support our veterans and troops. It turns out that one of the first bloggers who wrote about my project was Michael Higby who writes the blog called “Mayor Sam’s Sister City – Home of Los Angeles Politics”. He followed the progress of the calendar project after he wrote about it, and as it happens, he also was very active in the California Jaycees organization.
When the 2007 search for “Outstanding Young Californian” began, Mr. Higby submitted my project and nominated me for this honor. I guess the California Jaycees Foundation and the California Jr. Chamber of Commerce members liked the project enough to honor me with this very prestigious award. I was totally speechless when I heard that I had been selected for this award. I never expected anything like this to happen. The event was so nice and the actual award is so beautiful. I know that I have to share this award with all my wonderful supporters – I could not have done this alone.
Q. American Legion Post 360 is a co-sponsor for this project. How did that come about and what would you recommend to other American Legion posts and VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) posts who would like to do something similar with your calendars?
I grew up near American Legion Post 360. When I was in my senior year of high school, I received a college scholarship from Post 360 that recognized my academic and leadership accomplishments in high school. I was so thankful to them for the recognition. Six years later, when I came up with the calendar idea to help our veterans, it seemed like a great way to do something nice for the veterans who had once helped me.
I contacted Post 360 and asked them to be my co-sponsor on this project. I told them that I would like to raise funds for American Legion Post 360 to help them help our hospitalized Veterans. First Vice Commander Nick Nerio was so very supportive and helped me with the paperwork to get this sponsorship. After the 2007 calendar fundraiser was completed, we all went to the Loma Linda VA Hospital in Loma Linda California, and Post 360 presented the proceeds from the calendar fundraiser to a program that would be caring for our recovering Wounded Warriors.
In the meantime, I have tried to contact a number of American Legion Posts and VFW Posts to see if their members would like to purchase calendars to support our hospitalized Veterans. It is a great way for each Post to show their appreciation for their fellow ill and injured Veterans. The local Lake Arrowhead Rotary also stepped up to the plate and donated several calendars for me to deliver to the Wounded Warriors on my visit to the naval hospital in Balboa (San Diego).
Q. Out of all of your effort for this project, what has been your greatest satisfaction?
I think my greatest satisfaction has been knowing that one person can make a difference in the lives of many other people. The hundreds of letters of appreciation and the photos of the supporters with the calendars are priceless to me. I never knew when I first came up with this idea to help our veterans and troops that there would be so much more to it than raising funds for underfunded Veterans healthcare programs.
I just never expected the overwhelming response that this project has received – especially the fact that it has been such a great morale booster for the troops! I am so gratified that this project has made such a positive impact on others.
Q. Are there any other modeling projects outside of the “Pin-Ups For Vets” calendar that you have considered doing?
Well, I will have to cross that bridge when I get to it. I am not a model by occupation but I certainly would consider any other modeling project to help our troops.
As a matter of fact, I received two letters recently from our troops in Iraq who came across my web site and loved the project and the pin-up photos. They told me that they would like to paint my pin-up photos on their wall in a work area to help brighten up the area for the troops. They are sending me an army camouflage outfit that I will wear in some more pin-up photos. I will send them the photos and they will be sending me updated photos on the mural that they will paint from my photos. I will post those photos in my “In the Field” pages on my website.
Honestly, I never expected to wind up as the subject of a mural. I am so complimented that the troops would like my pin-up photos so much that they want to paint them on a wall! I will have to check and see if Betty Grable had any murals painted of her during the World War II years!
Q. For our troops who are deployed overseas in very dangerous places, unless something bad happens, the media doesn’t really report very much about our servicemen and women who are slogging it out on a day-to-day basis. What would you like to personally say to them?
I say it to them every time I send them a calendar or a poster. I tell them that I want them to know that Americans appreciate their service to our country and the sacrifices they make every day! I don’t want them to feel forgotten.
This is not a popular war… it is a very, very difficult conflict… with many differences of opinion on all sides. I can only imagine what our troops feel like being in harms’ way and knowing that many people back home don’t support the war effort. It is bad for morale. I want them to know that no matter what people’s opinions are of the war, that Americans absolutely do support our troops. Americans want our troops to be safe in combat and to come home safely. Americans’ appreciation for our brave heroes is constant, and so many people have come together to support our troops.
I work with two outstanding non-profit groups who raise funds to send these amazing care packages to the troops who write to me. I receive calendar orders from all over the world and these people from other countries want to do something to support our troops, as well! I know that people all over the world and here in American absolutely appreciate the sacrifices made everyday by our troops!
Q. If someone is thinking about buying a gift for a vet or sending care package, what would you like to say to about your calendar making a great present?
The “Pin-Ups For Vets” website (www.PinUpsForVets.com) really says it all. I think that if anyone goes to the web site and sees the wonderful letters of appreciation from VA and military hospital personnel for the calendars and for the proceeds raised for our ill and injured veterans, and then goes to the “In the Field” pages to see the smiles of our troops and hospitalized veterans with the calendars– well, I think those pictures are worth a thousand words.
The messages from the troops describing the morale boost the calendar has given them and the certificates of appreciation from the troops for the project – all of these are testimonials for showing that the calendar does make a great present for a hospitalized veteran or for an active duty military person. It is a gift that has brought hundreds of smiles to our Veterans and brave heroes overseas, and it is a gift that keeps on giving for 12 months. And best of all, it is a gift whose proceeds go to help our Veterans healthcare programs that are often underfunded.
Question: And for anyone else who would like to find a tangible way to support our troops, what would you like to say about the “Pin-Ups For Vets” calendar as being a means of showing your appreciation to our men and women in uniform.
Every personal message from a donor on a calendar that is sent over to Iraq and Afghanistan, it shows the men and women in uniform that civilians care about them and really appreciate their service to America. We have to let our deployed troops know that they are not forgotten and that they are brave heroes to all of us here and to others around the world.
Many troops do not receive much mail from home and my wish would be to send a “Pin-Ups For Vets” calendar or poster to each and every active duty military person. I would also like to deliver hundreds more “Pin-Ups For Vets” calendars and posters to each and every patient in a Veterans or military hospital. I hope that the readers of this interview will look into their hearts and find a way to order just one calendar for me to send to a troop member or for me to deliver to a hospitalized Veteran! I will be so grateful for all your support in helping our troops and Veterans.
Please pass the word of this project on to your family and friends so that we can all honor our Veterans and troops for their brave service to our country. I send you all much thanks and appreciation for donating a calendar or a poster to our men and women in uniform and to our Veterans in hospitals all over the U.S.