THE STORY BEHIND THE CALENDAR……
What are the chances that one girl’s picture would end up in both Afghanistan and Iraq, on two separate occasions three years apart? The answer is, it actually happened…..to me. This is my personal story of how I got involved with our troops, and why I was inspired to produce this calendar to help support them.
I’ve always considered myself patriotic. I was raised to believe it is our duty to support our country, regardless of whatever political ideas we might have about war or government politics. But it wasn’t until 2005, that I began to understand just how important the word “patriotic” is and what it really means.
You see, during this time, when the United States was in the heat of battle in Afghanistan and Iraq, my agent booked me for a photo shoot with Dillon Precision Products, Inc./Dillon Aero. This company often featured me on the cover of their calendars and monthly publication, “The Blue Press,” which goes to over 250,000 people worldwide, many whom are military personnel or families. One of my covers became so popular that Dillon decided to produce it as a poster, and it sold out immediately. This is what started everything. For some reason, it struck a chord with our service personnel overseas. It ended up in the hands of some troops in Afghanistan, where this wonderful group of brave men flew a flag in my honor at the base and put my poster on their military vehicle and in their office. They designated me an honorary member of their sector, signed the flag and mailed it to me. It was at that moment I knew my heart belonged to these heroes.
I started receiving emails and letters from many of our military personnel and their families, thanking me for keeping them inspired and encouraged. This surprised and humbled me because I’m not convinced I did anything noteworthy. My poster seems so insignificant to what these soldiers do every day. I was flattered and felt a great sense of loyalty, pride and duty to these brave men and women. I know that what I do is meaningless and petty compared to what they sacrifice, risk, and deal with, all in the name of our great Country. So, when I was contacted in 2006 by a retired Marine who asked me to work with his charity, New England Warrior, to help raise money for much needed supplies for the troops, I immediately agreed, and a wonderful partnership was born.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any more incredible, I received another email in late 2008. Apparently, that June, there was an insurgent attack in Iraq. The terrorists involved blew up a building, causing American casualties. As you can see from the pictures, the building was completely destroyed, burned out and full of rubble. You can even see the fire still burning inside the door. But inside, on a burned and blackened wall, was one item that somehow remained intact – a 2008 Dillon Calendar just hanging there in plain sight, singed corners and all. Most of the pages had melted away, but clear as day, the month of October, which happened to feature my photo, was still there, and completely recognizable. Someone at the scene, I have no idea who, took pictures of the incident and sent them to Dillon because it was such a chilling sight. I don’t know who hung the calendar there in the first place, but once again, here were these brave heroes, fighting in the most horrible situations, and this simple calendar picture somehow represented something so American to them. I can’t begin to understand how and why this comforts them, but somehow it does, and I am so honored to think I contribute to that in any small way. I began to realize my insignificant little pictures were becoming something much more meaningful than I ever imagined.
Maybe it is just me who gets chills when I look at these pictures, but I feel such a connection and obligation to our service men and women. I truly believe my picture did not end up overseas by accident. Something bigger was going on here. I cannot tell you how many times I have sat at my computer reading emails with tears in my eyes and goosebumps on my arms. I’ve had parents thanking me for a calendar, when they have lost children in the war. They are always grateful, respectful, positive and so genuine in the face of such heartache. I have ENORMOUS respect for all of them. I save every letter I receive in a scrapbook, along with the flag, their pictures and the t-shirts they send me! The only thing I can do to even remotely show my appreciation to these families, is to promise to remind people of what they do, and why we should still care and support them in EVERY WAY POSSIBLE, not just in times of war, but in times of peace as well. These men and women are never away from their duty.
No matter where you stand politically, or what you agree or disagree with regarding war, we are still Americans, ABOVE ALL, and our troops fighting overseas deserve our gratitude. They see things we don’t. They tell the real stories, not the ones we get from our mainstream media. I have been very enlightened by things I’ve learned from the men and women I’ve come to know. They know what they are fighting for and they believe in it and sacrifice for it without hesitation. When you vote in an election, debate issues with a friend, or even when you get frustrated and criticize or blame the government or a particular politician, remember, there’s a reason why we are able to enjoy that freedom. We can all learn from our service men and women.
It is the simple American things we send overseas that keep our troops motivated, comforted and reminded of home. It means more than we can comprehend. (And how ironic to think that in Iraq, a country that can severely and physically punish a woman just for showing her arms, legs or face, that a red-blooded, all-American picture of a girl in a mini-dress is hanging in one of their buildings – there is something somewhat satisfying about that)! 🙂
So, the purpose of this calendar is to pay tribute to all the branches of our Armed Forces. I wanted it to be a symbol of gratitude, pride, courage and honor for our military, and all patriotic Americans. When the concept of war-time pin-ups was at its height of popularity during World War II, Americans had such a great sense of togetherness and pride in their country above anything else. It was a simpler time. We now live in a different world, and some of those ideals have suffered. My ultimate goal with this calendar is to recapture that feeling, to remind people of that tradition, and to just brighten the battlefield a little for those who long for home. I also donate the calendar profits to important Veteran’s charities for the wonderful work they are doing for not only our military men and women who are currently serving, but also for those who have come home or retired, and just as importantly their families whom also make great sacrifices.
Thanks from the bottom of my heart to those of you who took the time to read my story and purchase a calendar. I am passionate about this cause, it has moved me and touched my heart and made me a different person. Please look at the pictures, and just reflect and think for a few moments on what our troops do, that most of us would probably never even consider sacrificing.