Pin-Ups For Veterans at Long Beach VA Hospital

Pin-Ups For Vets pose for the camera as they visit patients at the Long Beach VA Hospital last July. 

Pin-up calendars are gaining popularity amongst military veterans again across the country — and it’s all because of one organization.

Pin-Ups For Vets (PU4V) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising money to improve veterans’ healthcare, improving the quality of life for ill veterans through personal bedside visits to deliver gifts, supporting homeless veterans by offering clothing and calendar gifts to shelters and boosting the morale of female veterans and wives by offering makeovers and clothing. PU4V also provides care packages to deployed troops.

Gina Elise, who founded PU4V, said she started the organization after hearing stories about wounded service members coming home from Iraq. She said many of the healthcare programs for wounded soldiers were overcrowded and lacked the proper funding to provide the best care possible. She also wanted to do something to honor her grandfather’s military service in the Army during WWII. As a result, she began selling the calendars in 2007.

“I have always loved the beautiful nose art on WWII planes that depicted beautiful women. In the ’40s, that art was used to boost the morale of the air crews and they remind them of what they are fighting for,” Elise said. “I combined my love for the art and the ’40s decade to create the calendar.”

PU4V plans on using the 2015 calendars to support hospitalized veterans and deployed troops. Elise said the calendar is unique because it will highlight nine women and three male veterans.

In the past, Elise was the only calendar model and then the calendar combined both celebrities and veterans. A few years ago, Gene Simmons’ wife Shannon Tweed and daughter Sophie were featured.

“Our calendar models have such fascinating stories to tell,” Elise says on the PU4V Web site. “They are truly an amazing group of people.”

Ricky Ryba, a U.S. Navy veteran, is featured as a 2015 calendar model with Elise. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a degree in Information Technology and just finished his 11-year service in the Navy. Ryba was deployed twice overseas to more than 20 countries.

“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,” Ryba said on the PU4V Web site. “The calendar brings a smile to a veteran’s face and shows them that there are so many people out there that care and are grateful for their service.”

The organization is currently on a 50 state VA and Military Hospital Tour where they donate calendars and gifts to hospitalized veterans and Wounded Warriors. They have visited more than 6,000 ill and injured veterans and 47 VA and military hospitals in 27 states. The organization also donated more than $50,000 for state-of-the-art rehab equipment.

PU4V visited the Long Beach VA Hospital in July for Independence Day. Elise said that she and a group of girls dressed as 1940s pin-up girls and visited patients at their bedside to give away calendars as gifts.

To purchase a calendar, visit www.pinupsforvets.com. The calendar is $15. The PU4V store also features Gina Elise’s homemade brownies and playing cards, which can be donated to the organization to create care packages for deployed troops.

Sarah George can be reached at sarah.whiteford@gazettes.com.

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