South Dakota VA will allow pin-up vet visit after all

By Matt Saintsing

UPDATE: After this story was published, Gina Elise from Pin-ups for Vets informed Connecting Vets Friday evening that their trip is back on to visit the Sioux Falls VA hospital.

As previously reported:

Pin-ups for Vets has been bringing smiles to the faces of veterans nationwide since 2006. As volunteers, these women veterans deliver calendars, smiles, and joy to patients at VA facilities while celebrating the fashion of a by-gone era.

But the happiness came to an abrupt halt Thursday when the VA hospital in Sioux Falls, SD disinvited the organization. The reason? Because of “disrespect of women veterans.”

Read More: From duty to beauty: Pin-up vets raise cash for wounded warriors

The Sioux Falls VA confirmed their visit for Oct. 10 in September.  “It was agreed that we would be taken around by volunteer services to see some patients,” says Gina Elise, the nonprofit’s founder and executive director.

But an email received Thursday references new guidance from a director that stipulates the VA  facility would no longer accommodate the organization on the grounds it had been deemed inappropriate by leadership.

Never mind the fact that the models are volunteers, veterans, and unique individuals who can decide for themselves what is, and what is not, demeaning or objectifying to them.

The organization has received extremely positive feedback from several other VA hospitals across the nation, but the Sioux Falls VA appears to be injecting their own morality into the situation.

Thursday night, the hospital issued a statement on its Facebook page, but many questions remain unanswered.

Are the patients aware of the approval, and subsequent disinvite? Who exactly does not want Pin-ups for Vets to attend?

A spokesperson for the Sioux Falls VA told Connecting Vets to refer to the Facebook post, and would not answer additional questions.

Given that the volunteers are dressed in 1940s fashion, much of the clothing is more conservative than what people see today, says Elise.

No one is more hurt and offended than by the women vets who proudly volunteer their time to travel across the country.

“How demeaning is it for you to imply that a group of empowering women who have dutifully served their country for years, are somehow contributing to disrespecting other women veterans,” says Chantal Marcelle Van Acker, who served in the US Air Force.

“Pin-Ups For Vets does nothing to objectify women, as we are all much more modestly dressed than modern day attire,” says Jennifer Marshal, a Navy veteran. “The aesthetic we aim for is classic and family friendly.”

Others feel as if this is a direct assault on their femininity.

“Just because a women chooses to wear a dress and red lipstick, why should she still not be considered equal?,” says Jacqlyn Cope, who also served in the Air Force. “Deciding for all women that this objectifies us, is itself, an objectifying act.”

For Elise, there is much hurt and confusion. “They have allowed beauty pageant winners to visit who present signed pictures of themselves,” she says. “We are just confused as to what makes that ok, but our visit inappropriate.”

Connect: @MattBSaintsing | Matt@ConnectingVets.com

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