Pin-Ups for Vets Founder Gina Elise, Navy Vet Buddy Watson, Julia Reed Nichols
Veterans Day is a time to remember the past as well as the ongoing courage and sacrifice of our enlisted men and women. It's also a time to pitch in and help. An inspired woman, lovely Gina Elise, and her team are releasing a documentary, Pin-Ups for Vets, that honors them all. Produced by TV4 Entertainment and created by southern California-based Elise, the documentary, which will start airing on YouTube's All Warrior Network (November 11), is an adjunct to Elise's very tasteful but sexy annual Pin-Ups for Vets Calendar whose proceeds go to benefit hospitalized veterans.
Having been published since 2007, the 2015 calendar features for the first time 12 veterans including nine female veterans and three male veterans. The female pin-up models were photographed in classic 1940s pin-up style surrounded by retro airplanes and automobiles. The photos, taken by April Smith, brilliantly recapture the authentic feel of the original WWII pin-up depictions, which were painted on planes or hung up as pictures in barracks, and which reminded our troops of what they were fighting for back home.
The new documentary captures the behind-the-scenes action of the 2015 calendar Pin-Ups for Vets shoot, and Elise explains, "One of the veterans, Shannon Stacy, was a Naval Flight surgeon and is now an ER doctor! Jovane Henry was a model in Japan for two years before joining the Marine Corps. They are all very inspirational individuals, and by asking them to be models is a great way to start telling their amazing stories. They are superheroes to me! I want the rest of America to learn about our Vets, generally, how resilient they are, and be inspired by them!"
Navy Vet Ricky Ryba and Gina Elise with 1954 Mercury Monterey - Photo by April Smith
Elise's inspiration began in 2006 when she heard stories about severely wounded service members returning from their deployments in Iraq but finding many healthcare programs overcrowded or underfunded. She continues,
There was also a large number of aging Veterans from past wars that were entering the hospitals to add to the patient load. I wanted to do something to honor my grandfather's Army service during WWII, and I had always loved the beautiful nose art on the WWII military planes that depicted beautiful women. I took my love of that art form to produce the first pin-up fundraiser calendar that we sold in 2007, hoping to purchase equipment for the VA hospitals. Equipment always gets worn out and we thought this was the best way to spend our funds -- to buy brand new rehabilitation equipment for our veterans.
Determined Elise and her team have produced nine calendars, and visited over 6,000 ill and injured vets at their bedsides in 48 Veteran facilities nationwide and in Germany. In the process, they have donated over $50,000 dollars worth of new equipment for VA and Military hospitals nationwide.
USMC Vet Jovane Henry with 1941 Ryan PT-22 "Recruit" plane - Photo by April Smith
USMC veteran Jovane Henry, explains her own reason for getting involved:
I was aware that pin-ups have been a mainstay in military culture since WWII. I'd been a model professionally in Tokyo but I'd never done pin-up style posing. Contrary to popular belief, the posing was not overtly sexual by any means. I felt a sense of pride that I was joining a genre of women who had boosted the morale of troops and encouraged them to remember what they were fighting for back home. As a woman veteran, I felt beautiful and empowered in my feminine energy -- which isn't exactly encouraged in a military environment. And as a veteran, it was even more rewarding. There are so many ways to serve the community, and this calendar was just one way for me to give back. The look on the wounded warriors' faces that we visit is already great, but when they learn that I'm a veteran and we have that instant connection, it's even better. I am still motivating and supporting my fellow troops, just with red lipstick and without the combat boots!
Navy Vet Shannon Stacy with 1940 Stearman - Photo by April Smith
In many ways, Shannon Stacy and Jovane Henry and the other terrific Pin-Ups for Vets models -- who ranged from Navy Seabee to combat Correspondent and Flight Surgeon -- honor the past contributions of Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Jane Russell and Gene Tierney to the military cause. But they also honor our continuing fascination with the 1940s and 1950s. Elise adds, "Retro style is incredibly flattering to the female figure, it accentuates all the best places. The make-up style isn't that hard to achieve -- apart from the clothes, all you need is red lipstick and cat eye liner. Simple, yet so classic."
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