Annika Hutsler was diagnosed with an intramuscular arteriovenous vascular tumor during boot camp.
For the 17th year in a row, former service members have morphed into glam models for the Pin-Ups for Vets calendar. The calendar raises money for veterans nationwide. For the 2023 calendar, 13 women veterans posed as 1940s-style pin-up models, according to People. Among these models is Annika Hutsler, a Marine veteran, who had her foot amputated below the knee in 2019. The 26-year-old discovered an intramuscular arteriovenous vascular tumor in her foot and her lower leg had to amputated for her survival.
Speaking to Semper Fi & America's Fund, Hustler said she was inspired to join the marines because, "I had lived all my life so far for me, and I thought it was time I thought of living for other people." However, during the Bootcamp, she started feeling intense pain in her right foot. She sought medical help and it wasn't until nine months later, she was diagnosed with an intramuscular arteriovenous vascular tumor. She spent 14 months trying to find a way to save her but to no avail. Ultimately, Hustler had to make the extremely painful decision of whether to electively amputate her right leg below the knee or to continue trying to eradicate the tumor. She chose the former option and reached out to Semper Fi & America’s Fund. The fund helped her with medical bills and other resources to make things like driving accessible.
She posed for the November page in the 2023 calendar for the non-profit Pin-Ups for Vets, an organization started in 2006 by Gina Elise from California. Pin-Ups for Vets raises funds to help the hospitalized and deployed troops from the country, per Fox News.
Hustler said she was in "awe" when she looked at the final page. She told the outlet, "I model, so I've seen what I look like on-camera. But with the hair, makeup and dresses, I looked like someone from that era." The California native recalled, "I just remembered walking in [on set] and seeing all the dresses ready. The music from that era was playing. It was just a really fun experience to get dolled up in that way."
She hails from a family of veterans as her grandfather also served in both the Vietnam and Korean wars. He had an emotional reaction when he saw his granddaughter on the calendar. Hustler recalled, "He saw the photos and awestruck would be the best word to describe his reaction. It just reminded him of back when he was overseas." She expressed her pride at being able to support the 2023 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar, which has already raised $100,000 for the acquisition of rehabilitation equipment for military and veteran hospitals.
She explained, "If you look back at the history of what pinups were, it's women feeling like they were part of the war effort. It's coming back around now because everybody on the calendar is a veteran. And this is our way to pay tribute to those women who participated in the war effort before us."
"Not only are these calendars good for morale, but [founder Gina Elise] is demonstrating the importance of giving back to those who are trying to find their way in the civilian world now."
Hutsler has participated in the Warriors Games as well as the 2019 and 2020 Marine Corps Trials. She also has her eyes set on competing in the 2026 Paralympics as a snowboarder. She documents her life and journey on Instagram. She wrote in a recent post talking about her struggles with the tumor, "Life is hard. But that just makes you tough. And you’ve always come out on top of all the things you never thought you could."