Update: Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Veterans Affairs leadership contacted Pin-Ups for Vets to allow representatives to visit while “at the same time maintaining an environment that is respectful of all the Veterans we serve,” according to a statement. The move reverts the change outlined in the below story. No further details were immediately available.
Veterans Affairs officials in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, spiked an appearance by two “pin-ups” at the VA hospital next week, saying the planned giveaway of calendars featuring female military veterans dressed in 1940s vintage clothing “may contribute to the disrespect of women Veterans.”
Models with Pin-Ups for Vets, a nonprofit whose annual calendar has raised more than $56,000 for veterans causes ― including medical equipment for VA facilities, per the charity’s website ― have made more than 60 visits to VA installations, along with trips to military bases and other appearances.
Founder Gina Elise said she confirmed the Oct. 10 appearance late last month; Elise and Marine Corps veteran and fellow vintage model Tess Rutherford already had travel booked from California when they received word that the visit had “been deemed inappropriate by the leadership.”
Elise posted news of the rejection on Facebook on Wednesday, encouraging supporters to express their opinion of the decision directly to Sioux Falls VA officials.
Those officials sent out a statement via Facebook on Thursday, thanking people for their messages and saying, in part, that the ruling came “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.”
An emailed response to questions from Military Times on Thursday night contained similar wording. It did not address specific questions, such as why the visit had been approved before it was rejected.
“With all due respect to the leadership of this facility, I feel like this was a knee-jerk decision and that there was little to no research done prior to making that decision,” said Jennifer Marshall, a Navy veteran and actress who has donned the vintage clothing for several Pin-Ups for Vets outings with VA patients. “Our award-winning nonprofit has visited thousands of veterans at their bedside and has worked to raise money for badly needed rehab equipment. There is nothing disrespectful nor objectifying about the work that we do.”
Elise maintains a web page of letters from VA staff expressing appreciation for the group’s visits. The group’s 2018 calendar, its 12th, includes 21 female veteran models.
Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.