The nursing staff rushed up to me to tell me that this veteran had also suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) and that this was the first time he had spoken in a month. I guess sometimes it just takes a pin-up girl to ignite the engine!
In the spring of 2006, many stories were coming out in the news about our wounded warriors who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and were coming back to VA and military hospitals in the US that were underfunded, overpopulated and couldn't properly care for them. Sometimes things strike a chord with you in life. I knew I had to do something to help.
These men and women were putting their own lives on the line for our country, and we needed to take the best possible care of them if they became injured. My own grandfather was a WWII army vet. He gave back to his country and now I wanted to do my part.
It was two years after I had graduated from UCLA. I was 24 years old and working in the hotel industry in LA. I thought: "How can I raise money to support these healthcare programs?"
I had always been a big fan of WWII nose art--the beautiful women painted on the WWII planes to remind the troops of what they were fighting for back home. I decided right then to create a WWII-style pin-up calendar that I would sell to raise money for VA and military hospitals.
I brought a few of my artistic friends together, and we created the very first Pin-Ups for Vets calendar, which was released in 2007. I was able to raise and donate $5,000 that first year to help expand a program at a VA hospital.
I also decided that I wanted to start visiting these VA and military hospitals myself, dressed as a 1940s pin-up girl to cheer up the patients and bring them donated calendars. I used all my vacation days to visit veterans in hospital beds. At one hospital, I was speaking to a vet in the spinal cord injury unit. He was answering all of my questions, but very quietly. I gave this veteran a calendar, spent a few moments with him and left the room. The nursing staff rushed up to me to tell me that this veteran had also suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) and that this was the first time he had spoken in a month. I guess sometimes it just takes a pin-up girl to ignite the engine!
In addition to raising money and making hospital visits, I started getting requests from the deployed troops for calendars to boost morale in the warzone. So, I started shipping boxes of calendars all over the world to our deployed troops. By the end of 2010, I had raised and donated $50,000 to help improve the lives of our wounded warriors and hospitalized vets. Fast forward six years to 2011. I now concentrate on "Pin-Ups for Vets" full time and am right in the middle of a 50 state VA and military hospital tour. I have visited 22 VA/military hospitals in 13 states to date.
When I first had the idea for this project in 2006 and pitched it to a few people, many of them said to me, "Who is going to buy your pin-up calendar?" I felt so strongly that it would work that I forged ahead despite my doubts. Today, I am a full-time pin-up girl, traveling the country to boost the spirits of our vets in hospitals and raising money for them so they can have better medical care. The instant that changed my life was when I decided to follow an instinct that I had and a feeling that I needed to give back to those who have given so much. I'm so glad I did.