Watching. Waiting. Worrying. Night after sleepless night, Dena Stahl got up, took care of her children, worked, managed her household and anxiously awaited the safe return of her husband, Sergeant Travis Stahl, from the war in Afghanistan. When Dena learned from her husband about all the soldiers who didn’t receive care packages from home, she teamed up with longtime friend, photographer Danielle Thiery Camp, to remedy that.
Together they founded Pinups for Soldiers (PUFS), a nonprofit group that produces an annual World War II style calendar to raise funds for our troops overseas. With the 10th anniversary of 9-11 coming up this Sunday, we caught up with Dena to learn more about Pinups for Soldiers, their 2012 calendar, their Sept. 10 Memorial Ride/Poker Run and other upcoming events to support their worthy cause.
How did you meet Danielle Camp, and what made you two decide to start Pinups for Soldiers?
Danielle and I have been friends for over 18 years. Danielle wanted to do a pinup shoot and asked if I was interested in helping her build her portfolio. I reached out to my friends for ideas, and one of them mentioned that she had always wanted to do a pinup calendar. It was March 2010 and my husband, SGT Travis Stahl was deployed to Afghanistan serving our country. During his deployment I became aware that there were many soldiers who did not receive care packages from home. Travis began giving items from the care packages I was sending to those soldiers. We decided that if we were going to make a pinup calendar, we were going to make it a nonprofit and use it to raise money so that we could send care packages to soldiers stationed overseas.
Tell us about having your husband deployed.
Having a husband deployed is one of the hardest things I have ever been through. A year of sleepless nights waiting on a phone call, email or text to confirm he is okay, the constant worry and not knowing where he is or what is going on, the fear that enters your body any time there is a knock on the front door, the empty spot in the bed beside me, handling everything on the home front on my own…is all very hard. However I am honored to be a soldier’s wife. He is my husband, my hero, and his dedication not only to me and our family, but to our amazing country makes me so proud.
How many units does PUFS help? Do you have a most memorable request for assistance?
Currently we are supporting three units totaling almost 200. The units are stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait. We have a unit that is about to deploy, bringing us to almost 600! We are always touched when we receive emails from soldiers. For me, they are all memorable. The requests we get range from necessities to soldiers wanting pictures. Our motto is “Brightening Lives Protecting Ours,” and that is our mission and we take it to heart. We feel as if the American Soldier is a true patriot and should be honored and appreciated. We want them all to know that they are not forgotten.
What is your favorite reaction to the receipt of a PUFS care package?
We LOVE to get pictures from units we support and emails letting us know we did make a difference and put a smile on their face!
We heard the exciting news that renowned modern day pinup model, Bernie Dexter, is participating in the 2012 calendar. How did she become involved?
My husband, SGT Travis Stahl, a bronze star recipient who proudly serves our country as a Combat Medic in the United States Army, emailed the wonderful Bernie Dexter and introduced her to Pinups for Soldiers. Bernie’s father served in the United States Navy. Bernie Dexter is a gem, and you won’t find a better person in the pinup world or otherwise. We cannot articulate how over the moon we are about her involvement and support.
Are any of your calendar girls in the armed forces themselves?
Glad you asked this question. YES, we have a member of the United States Army, Miss Sweet Adeline, in the 2012 Calendar. She inspires me. Not only does she serve our country with great honor, but she also makes the time and gives so much back to her peers. We are blessed to have her as a part of the PUFS family but also as a friend.
You held a Motorcycle Poker Run this summer to help raise funds for the troops, and have a Memorial Ride for 9-11 coming up soon. Do you have a strong supporter base in the biker community?
We are also including the Mini Cooper community in the run. We have found that the biker community has a very heavy veteran presence and proud Americans in general who stay active in the community. The American Legion has been a wonderful support system for us; they will be the first and last stop on this run. The [Memorial Ride/Poker Run] is scheduled for September 10 at the American Legion Post 127 located in Buford, GA. For more information, you can go to our Facebook fan page and preregister there as well. We have a party bus for those who are interested in participating but do not have a bike or mini.
Currently, what are PUFS’ greatest needs in terms of donations?
We have a list of about 25 items that we put into care packages posted on our fan page. Sunscreen wipes and personal size Gold Bond are always a must have for the care packages and not always the easiest to obtain. Our shipping costs can be pretty hefty as well, so monetary donations are always good. Whether people give us $1 or $20 every bit of it helps. You can donate through our Website, as well as our Facebook fan page.
We always want to make it clear that we are a volunteer-based organization, and philanthropy to the soldiers is our number one priority. Being in the calendar is a sidebar to the main goal. Girls must first volunteer their time to the cause prior to being considered for the calendar. We will be holding a casting call for the 2013 calendar in January once we have wrapped up all our efforts and events for the 2012 calendar.
When does the 2012 calendar go on sale, and how can we order one?
We are currently taking preorders for the 2012 calendar via our Facebook page; just look under the SHOP NOW tab. You can purchase a calendar for just $15, and for an additional $10 you can also purchase a calendar as a gift for a soldier, and Pinups for Soldiers will ship it to one our units on your behalf. We will have calendars in hand in October. You can also purchase a calendar through donating on our PayPal located on our Website. Make sure to note “calendar” on your instructions and include your mailing address.