Sioux Falls, SD (KSFY) Volunteers from the non-profit organization Pin-Ups for Vets will visit the Sioux Falls VA Hospital Tuesday after a long week of online debate.
Last week the Sioux Falls VA sent the group a letter denying their visit, but after the letter was posted online, a social media storm followed largely filled with support for the volunteer organization.
“I think that when we walk into the rooms, it’s sort of a blast from the past,” Pin-Ups for Vets Founder Gina Elise said. “Pin-up art is a part of American military history, there's even an exhibit in the Smithsonian about pin-up art and how important it was to American history. I like to think that we're keeping that part of history alive.”
Gina Elise founded Pin-Ups for Vets in 2006, creating the nostalgic calendar to raise money for military medical care.
“We have donated over $56,000 dollars in rehab equipment to VA hospitals around the nation,” Elise said.
The organization's 2018 calendar features 21 female veterans.
“They love doing it because they see it as a form of empowerment, a lot of times they say it helps them regain their femininity when they return,” Elise said.
“We cannot lose our femininity, that's the essence of who we are,” Marine Corp Veteran Tess Rutherford said. “What’s objectifying about that? Look at how we're dressed today, this is how we look when we visit our veterans, there's nothing objectifying about that.”
In a Facebook post last week, the Sioux Falls VA said “this decision was made because we feel the materials the group asked to distribute may contribute to the disrespect of women veterans in their roles as equals, and perpetuates objectification of women in general.”
“The female veterans, our ambassadors, were very upset by that,” Elise said. “They're saying, why can't I wear a flower in my hair and red lipstick? They were very confused and upset by those statements…but we are so happy the hospital had a change of heart and are now allowing us to meet with the veterans.”
The two volunteers from California visited the Luverne, Minnesota veterans home Monday afternoon. They will be at the Sioux Falls VA Tuesday starting at 11:00am to visit with patients. It’s a decision many veterans have expressed their support for on the Sioux Falls VA’s Facebook page.
Several local veterans, both male and female, have expressed their support for the Pin-ups for Vets organization. One area female veteran said “I think that the Pin-ups for Vets organization has done some great work in fundraising and supporting veterans. It’s awesome that they are another example of veterans helping veterans. And not just the fundraising, but the feelings they invoke. Even reading the stories of some of the women vets who are models is pretty cool, how they feel good about themselves and are surrounded by other women who support them and hold them up. Because, that's what empowers women...having other women who support each other always.”