Pin Ups for Vets brings military veterans into Iona

IONA- When Dustin Kremer set up an opportunity for people to come to Iona and meet two of the Pin Ups for Vets personnel, he didn't expect anyone to drive almost five hours to show up for the event. But that is exactly what David Schick of Cedar Rapids, Iowa did.

Wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with an Iraqi Freedom patch, Schick walked into VanBullys Bar, anxious to meet Gina Elise, who started the non-profit organization in 2006 after reading about veterans who spent their last days in a bed, without visitors or anything to brighten their day. Elise also started hearing about the injuries sustained by our troops, and decided to make a difference by creating a nostalgic pin-up calendar that could be sold to raise funds and also delivered as gifts to veterans, with messages of thanks. The calendars are also sent to deployed troops.

Schick said he has been following Elise on Facebook for quite a while. A combat medic for the Red Bull, he served in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2005 and did another overseas tour in 2007 and 2008.

"I've always admired what Gina has done," Schick said Monday night. "Vets get so much judgment when they come home, and some are ready to go off the deep end. Gina supports us unconditionally, and really puts herself into this."

Kremer, who had met Elise at in event in the Twin Cities, worked to bring them to southwest Minnesota. He wanted to get them into the Luverne VA to meet his great-uncle, a World War II vet. It took some doing, and a surprising amount of resistance from some governmental entities, but the two women did visit the Luverne home Monday afternoon.

"My uncle was so happy," Kremer said. "He got such a kick out of it."

Kremer, who grew up in rural Iona, joined the U.S. Marines in 2002 and, like Schick, served two tours overseas - one in Iraq and another in Kuwait - as a military police. He now resides in Blooming Prairie.

Above, Schick with Pin Ups Founder Gina Elise and Tess Rutherford.

Below, the ladies meet Kremer's Great-Uncle "Chub."

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