2015 Pin-Ups for Vets calendars features 12 months' worth of US veterans
By DIANA SHOLLEY | Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Ontario, Calif. (MCT) | Published: November 5, 2014
Thousands of wounded veterans in military hospitals, medical centers and rehabilitation facilities across the country have been visited by model Gina Elise and gifted one of her 1940s-inspired Pin-Ups for Vets calendars. Elise, the Betty Page-looking granddaugter of a World War II veteran, has been the main model for the calendars since 2006 the main fundraiser for her Upland-based award-winning nonprofit.
But for 2015, Elise is proud to announce she has more to offer in her sexy calendar.
“In the past we’ve had a few veterans pose for the calendar. I decided that this year it would be amazing to have the calendar feature veterans all 12 months,” she said. “Many of the models have been with me when I visit our wounded veterans, who are happy for the visit, but it’s really special when they find out that one or more of the volunteers are also veterans. There’s an instant bond. I can spread happiness and joy and offer a ‘blast from the past,’ but when the veteran-volunteers come with me magic happens. They relate in a way I can’t.”
Elise founded Pin-Ups for Vets after hearing many disturbing reports about under-funded veterans’ healthcare programs and aging hospitalized veterans who seldom receive visitors. Then she came up with the vintage-style calendar because of the era’s nostalgic ideals of romance, which had always captivated her imagination.
Her goal with the calendar’s profits is to supplement care for hospitalized veterans, while delivering gifts to ill and injured veterans or deployed troops to let them know they are not forgotten.
Nine calendar girls and three guys are decked out in 1940s clothing and photographed at different locations like the Cable Airport in Upland, California and the Folk Music Center in Claremont, Calif.
Navy veteran Jennifer Marshall, deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, served five years stationed on Naval Outlying Field San Nicolas Island and on the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. Seeing Marshall’s calendar potential, Elise recruited her for the stunning, cake model in turquoise photographed in a California bakery.
“From the time I met Gina I’ve always been supportive of her and her mission, but I was still nervous about posing,” said Marshall, a North Hollywood, Calif., resident. “Once she told me the calendar would be all veterans, I felt I should get on board — but I still wanted to talk to my husband. He who reminded me that all the money goes to support the troops and veteran. His advice: ‘Get over it.’”
What also helped to affirm Marshall’s decision was her volunteer experiences.
“I love working with Pin-Ups for Vets because there is nothing better than spending time with fellow veterans and seeing them smile ear to ear,” Marshall said. “Knowing we have that shared experience only adds to the quality time we spend together during visits. Their service means a lot to me and it is my honor to meet such courageous men and women. I am so thankful for these vets who have not only been deployed once, but answered the call over and over and over again. Pin-Ups gives us the chance to say ‘thank you’ and let them know they are not forgotten.”
Still, some reactions stunned Marshall.
“Veterans asked, ‘When did your husband serve?’ And when they find out it was me who served they’d yell, ‘All right! Come on over here shipmate,’” recalls Marshall. “That’s my favorite greeting. Even though we’re pretty much strangers, being veterans makes us brothers and sisters. It’s something that civilians don’t understand. It’s an automatic connection.”
Also posing for the 2015 calendar is twice-deployed 11-year Navy veteran Ricky Ryba, who was just discharged earlier this year. Ryba graduated from the Naval Academy with a degree in information technology. He was stationed in Mayport, Fla. first on the USS John L. Hall, then the USS Farragut before transferring to Point Mugu, where he was working at a Naval Satellite Operations Center.
“I wanted to be in the 2015 Pin-Ups for Vets Calendar because I’ve seen how much Pin-Ups for Vets positively affects Veterans across the globe,” said the Los Angeles resident. “When you’re deployed getting mail is a very big deal and when you get something as special as one of these calendars filled with beautiful pictures, it’s like Christmas morning — and not just for the male soldiers.”
Ryba also volunteers with Pin-Ups for Vets and goes to military hospitals with Elise. The experience has left him proud and humbled.
“After talking with a veteran for a little while and thanking him for his service, he’ll ask me if I’m a veteran and I answer, ‘Yes. I am,’” he said. “Then we exchange this certain look with each other; we automatically have an idea of what the other person has gone through and who that person is. It takes a certain kind of person to make sacrifices in their life to serve and protect our country; to put himself in harms way to protect people he’s never even met, whenever called upon. I visit with some of the older veterans, the ones who served our country even before I was born and has passed the touch; between us there are unspoken bonds. We don’t even need words to thank each other.”
Elise and her volunteers travel across the country visiting veterans and delivering calendars. To date, she’s visited 48 Veterans facilities in 27 states and more than 6,000 bedsides. Calendars are available to purchase for personal use and can be purchased to be donated to veterans.
“We bring about 100 donated calendars on each of our visits,” Elise said. “And we don’t just drop them off and go — we engage patients, spend time with them and, most of all, tell them how much we really appreciate them, their service and the sacrifices they’ve made to keep us all safe.”
©2014 the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.)