Saturday, February 17, 2007

Cheesecake and Soldiers

Here’s the new (and refreshing) thing from the land of rocket & mortar attacks, IEDs, and misery. I have always had the hobby of creating artwork, as demonstrated in the mural on one of my first postings, one of the particular genres that have always been a favorite is “Cheesecake” or “Pin up” art that was commonly seen on WW II aircraft. Being in the “politically correct” Army, you don’t see that kind of artwork posted on any vehicles because we cannot be seen as sexist or offend our host country. Ironically, we can shoot the bad guys, as long as we don’t offend them.

With that being said, here is the history behind the “Pin up” or “Cheesecake” art and photographs as defined by Wikipedia.

A pin-up girl or pin-up model is a model whose mass-produced pictures see wide appeal as pop culture. Pin-ups are intended for informal display. Pin-up girls are often glamour models, fashion models, and actresses. "Pin-up" may also refer to drawings, paintings and other illustrations done in emulation of these photos. The term was first attested to in English in 1941; however the practice is documented back at least to the 1890s. The “pin up” images could be cut out of magazines or newspapers, or be from postcard or chromo-lithographs, and so on. Such photos often appear on calendars, which are meant to be pinned up anyway. Later, posters of “pin-up girls” were mass-produced.
Many “pin ups” were photographs of celebrities who were considered sex symbols. One of the most popular early pin-up girls was Betty Grable. Her poster was ubiquitous in the lockers of G.I.s during World War II. Others pin-ups were artwork, often depicting idealized versions of what some thought a particularly beautiful or attractive woman should look like. An early example of the latter type was the Gibson girl, drawn by Charles Dana Gibson. The genre also gave rise to several well-known artists specializing in the field, including Alberto Vargas and George Petty, and numerous lesser artists such as Art Frah.

The term “cheesecake” is synonymous with “pin-up photo”. The earliest documented print usage of this sense of “cheesecake” is in 1934, predating “pin-up”, although anecdotes say the phrase was in spoken slang some 20 years earlier, originally in the phrase (said of a pretty woman) “better than cheesecake”. These days, men can be considered “pin ups” as well and there are male equivalents of attractive and sexy actors such as Brad Pitt or numerous male models. The counterpart term to “cheesecake” is “beefcake”.

Where am I going with this? I was searching the internet for historical pin up art for a project here and ran across the web site This was a very noteworthy site due to the cause and the content of the project. The site is operated by Miss Gina Elise; she is a young woman out of California that, among other achievements, has dedicated her time, skills, and natural beauty to create a “Cheesecake” calendar for soldiers. She holds a B.A. in Theater from UCLA, has expanded her career in many facets including dance, theater and hosting.

So what’s the big deal, she donates the proceeds to several veterans programs throughout the United States. She has brought this project to life to show her love and dedication to all soldiers, sailor, airmen and marines. She applied herself in a very creative manner to provide a unique venue for people to support soldiers from all across America.

Here are some of the excerpts from her web site behind the project.
Over the past year, I have heard and read incredible stories about the injured soldiers returning from military service. Their hardest battles have just begun, as they attempt to recover in Veterans Hospitals all across America. I was touched by each story, and knew that I had to try to do something to help our hospitalized Vets. I came up with an idea to recreate a World War II style pin-up calendar that would have the dual purpose of raising money for programs that support hospitalized Veterans, and also serve as a GIFT for each and every Veteran, as they recover in a Veterans Hospital.

I always loved the beautiful pin-up photos and paintings from the World War II era that American soldiers took overseas with them to boost their morale. The troops often carried these “cheesecake” pictures with them into war to help remind them of what they were fighting for back home. One of the most famous pinup shots was taken in the 1940’s of actress Betty Grable, in a bathing suit, looking back over her shoulder.

With these old glamorous pictures as inspiration, I decided to try to recreate the feeling of these nostalgic pin-ups in my own photo shoots, and then assemble my pictures in a calendar for a fundraiser to benefit the programs that support the hospitalized Veterans, injured in ALL wars, past and present.

Your calendar donation will go towards: eyeglasses for Veterans, the home health program, recreational therapy, spinal cord injury & amputee programs, substance abuse program, women’s Veterans’ program, chapel improvements, homeless program, reading materials and subscriptions for the Veterans, patio improvements, parking lot shuttle, courtesy cart, social relief fund, televisions, wheelchairs, and outreach programs for the visually impaired.

I have had the pleasure of being able to communicate with Ms. Elise directly and found her to be very bright and dedicated to her cause. Please feel free to visit Ms. Elise’s web site ( and see what you can do for your soldiers. If this is not the venue for you, stop by the local church, VFW, American Legion, or USO office to see what you can do to help. Remember, if the soldier is not currently in need, maybe his family may be so it will still provide you with a rewarding experience.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Goodbye Jim

Dear Friends, I’ve been getting a lot of heat about not posting for so long. I am truly sorry for that. To be honest, the extension, operations, events and the nut roll going on here all coming (seemingly) at once; I have lacked the interest and motivation to post. Now that I’ve gotten the opportunity to post again, I will continue to keep you updated on this journey.

On January 9th, SSG James M. Wosika Jr. was killed by a VBIED (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device) basically, a car bomb. This has been one of the most difficult events in my life and I have had a pretty difficult time with this because of how long I’ve known him. He graduated from Highland Park High School in Minnesota and joined the Minnesota Army National Guard in November of 2000 as an infantryman. I had the privilege to have Jim assigned to my squad since he was a private al the way through our deployment to Kosovo. Jim was a truly kind soul that enters your life and blesses it just by being himself. He had a way of making you laugh at the worst times until your stomach hurt.

To give you an example of what type of man Jim was, during the riots in Kosovo (2004) 24 of us, including Jim, were caught in the middle of a crowd of 600-700 rioters in Kamenica, Kosovo. Jim, Joe Melhorn and Rich Nielson dove (literally) into an Albanian crowd that was beating a Serbian to death. They fought the crowd off and treated the man’s life-threatening injuries only to end up evacuating him to a hospital. None of the Albanians would admit the guy because he was Serbian so the three of them plus a Civil Affairs Major drove the guy to the Serbian border to meet an ambulance in order to save the guy’s life. Then they all returned to the melee they left. During the process of treating the guy’s injuries, Jim took a brick to the skull and had to receive stitches but he never stopped. That was just how Jim always was.

Jim was leading a patrol near Fallujah when he was killed. He did everything right, it was just one of those things. Jim’s efforts saved the lives of five of his comrades. I don’t care to go into any further details.

Jim’s funeral in the states was held Friday, Jan. 19, 2007, at 10:00 a.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Paul. It was attended by many people that Jim’s life had touched including Governor Tim Pawlenty, GEN Larry Shellito, and the Patriot Guard Riders. Jim was buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery. A memorial service was held here, in country to allow us the opportunity to say goodbye to him and to see each other. Out of Jim’s original company, a few of us have been sent to different location throughout Iraq due to the job, situation, and needs of the country. It was truly bitter-sweet because it allowed us to talk and laugh as we remembered some of Jim’s escapades, sayings, and stories that had occurred throughout his career with us. His family and friends also held a benefit in honor of Jim and the proceeds ($13,000) were donated to another soldier in the unit, SGT John Kriesel. If you don’t know, Kriesel was the soldier I wrote about in the entry “Still My Friend”. Anyway, it was good to know that Jim’s family was comforted and supported by so many people.

In closing, please visit and read the remarkable story of John and Katie Kriesel. This couple has demonstrated the standard of “for better or worse” in their marriage. This is a picture of Kriesel (on the front) and Wosika (in the background) while we were in Kosovo on a patrol.