“I Felt Weak, Embarrassed And Lonely. Your Visit Made Me Feel A Little Bit Like A Hero Again”

At InspireMore, we tirelessly search for the most incredible and uplifting stories to bring to you. However, every now and then, we come across stories that are made possible because of our amazing readers. One such story is from Gina, a remarkable woman who created Pin-Ups for Vets as a means to support and raise funds for our cherished U.S. Veterans.

Eighteen years ago, I was exposed to narratives about our brave young Veterans returning from the Iraq War with severe burns, traumatic brain injuries, amputations, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Additionally, I became aware of the escalating number of injured service members being cared for at the Veterans Hospitals on a daily basis.

I was determined to make a difference for my fellow peers who were going through the toughest times of their lives and to show my support for the hospitals that were taking care of them. Additionally, I wanted to pay tribute to my late Grandfather, who had served with honor during World War II.

Pin-Ups for Vets is Born

I’ve always been captivated by the beauty and charm of the 1940s, as well as the timeless allure of the pin-up girls from that era. Additionally, I’ve developed a deep admiration for the incredible nose art featuring women that adorned the WWII bombers. These courageous ladies played a crucial role in boosting the spirits of our troops and served as a reminder of the beloved girl next door whom they longed to return to after the war.

I chose to create a calendar in the style of old-time pin-up girls as a means to raise funds for the hospital programs that support our injured Troops. Given our limited budget, I searched through thrift stores to find authentic vintage outfits and acquired affordable wigs in various colors. Additionally, I reached out to a photographer I was acquainted with and kindly asked if he would be willing to take the photographs.

In 2006, I personally curated and designed a calendar with the intention of raising funds. Printing a limited quantity, I successfully sold every single calendar. The entirety of the proceeds were graciously donated to my local Veterans Hospital, specifically allocated for a program aimed at providing crucial treatment to the brave veterans who served in the Iraq War.

The Calendars Prove to be A Massive Success

As a sales manager in the hotel industry, I led a double life. Throughout the week, I donned dark business suits, but come the weekend, I transformed into my pin-up girl alter-egos. It was during these times that I dedicated myself to delivering calendar gifts of appreciation to hospitalized Veterans. Surprisingly, I never mentioned this weekend endeavor to my work colleagues.

In 2010, I made the decision to leave my job and dedicate myself entirely to my project, which has now evolved into a nonprofit organization. Four years later, in 2014, I had the idea to showcase female Veterans in our calendar. Since then, our annual fundraiser calendars have exclusively highlighted female Veterans, showcasing them in ’40s-inspired hairstyles and fashion.

The ladies are thrilled to have the opportunity to serve their fellow Veterans as volunteers on our “50-State VA Hospital Tour.” This role allows them to act as our volunteer goodwill Ambassadors, continuing their dedication to serving those who have served our country.

The Impact of Gina’s Work

Since our inception, we have achieved the following milestones:

    • Over 16,000 visits to hospitalized Veterans
    • Purchased $120,000 worth of brand new rehabilitation equipment to VA Hospital therapy departments across the U.S.
    • Shipping hundreds of care packages to deployed Troops
    • The purchase of food and clothing for homeless Veterans
    • Thousands of dollars provided for household items as Vets transition into housing
    • Provided morale-boosting make-over days of pampering for military spouse caretakers and Gold Star wives who have lost their husbands to war

The Pin-Ups For Vets nonprofit organization has received recognition from various esteemed entities, including the U.S. Congress, Oprah Winfrey, TV personality Mike Rowe, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign War, and Gene Simmons, the bass player of KISS. Additionally, America’s deployed troops have flown 11 U.S. flags over military bases and on missions to honor our efforts in supporting the military community.

We are eagerly anticipating reaching the 20-year milestone in just two more years. Additionally, our commitment to supporting those who have courageously served our country remains unwavering. As a civilian, it has been an absolute honor for me to contribute to the well-being of our veterans and troops, as well as showcase remarkable groups of female veterans in our calendars.

Man Shares Appreciation for The Pin-Ups For Vets Organization

Over the past 18 years, I have been fortunate enough to receive hundreds of thank you notes. However, there was one note that truly touched my heart.

‘Hi Gina,

I hope this message finds you well.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting you during your visit to the VA Medical Center in [redacted]. At that time, I was a patient in the psychiatry ward, struggling with severe PTSD and depression following my tour in Fallujah, Iraq with the Marines. I vividly remember your presence and the impact it had on me.

During one of the most challenging periods in my life, I was overwhelmed with feelings of guilt, loneliness, and a lack of hope. It was a time when despair seemed to overshadow everything else. However, I cannot begin to describe the immense gratitude I feel for your visit to our hospital unit. Your presence brought a glimmer of light and warmth into my world, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Your kindness, generosity, and smile brought a glimmer of solace during a harrowing experience. Ever since that moment, the support of individuals like you, who reached out to me during my time of suffering, has greatly contributed to the improvement in my life.

I am currently a junior at [redacted] and I am in the process of applying to medical school. My ultimate goal is to become a surgeon. Additionally, I have had the privilege of securing prestigious internships with [redacted].

Kindness Has A Ripple Effect

My life is truly amazing. I am fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful friends, professors, and mentors who support and inspire me. I thoroughly enjoy participating in races and engaging in cross-fit training, which brings me immense joy. Moreover, I find solace in utilizing my combat and personal experiences to assist those who are going through emotional hardships.

As the sole veteran from the Iraq War in attendance, I experienced feelings of weakness, embarrassment, and loneliness. However, your calendar and visit managed to instill a sense of heroism within me once again. The environment was truly daunting.

“I am incredibly grateful for your visit and I eagerly anticipate sending the 2015 calendar to some of the patients at the hospital. You are truly an extraordinary individual and a hero in my eyes. Thank you so much for your kindness.”

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