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From gloom to va-va-voom: USMC vet and amputee transforms into a stunning '40s pinup girl for calendar

USMC veteran Annika Hutsler was in awe during the photoshoot and she has been named Miss November 2023 in the 17th annual Pin-Ups for Vets calendar
Amputee Annika Hutsler is a USMC veteran and celebrated athlete who recently posed for a photoshoot as a '40s glamor girl and blew everyone's minds  (annikatheamputee/Instagram)
Amputee Annika Hutsler is a USMC veteran and celebrated athlete who recently posed for a photoshoot as a '40s glamor girl and blew everyone's minds (annikatheamputee/Instagram)

POMONA, CALIFORNIA: Annika Hutsler, whose leg was amputated in 2019, was in disbelief when she saw herself transformed into a '40s glamor girl for the first time. 

Pin-Ups for Vets is a non-profit established in 2006 by California resident, Gina Elise. It raises money to support deployed and hospitalized soldiers. Famously, it creates WWII themed calendars featuring war veterans as models. Hutsler, the USMC veteran, is reportedly being crowned Miss November 2023 in the 17th annual Pin-Ups for Vets calendar. 


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"I was in awe," Hutsler, who is based in California, told NY Post. "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. 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 shared that her grandfather had served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. "He saw the photos and was awestruck would be the best word to describe his reaction. It just reminded him of back when he was overseas."


"If you look back at the history of what pinups were, it’s women feeling like they were part of the war effort," Hutsler told the outlet, adding, "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 Gina is demonstrating the importance of giving back to those who are trying to find their way in the civilian world now."

Pin-Ups for Vets has reportedly donated more than $100,000 to hospitals nationwide to support the purchase of rehabilitation equipment and for the expansion of veterans healthcare programs. The non-profit sent hospitalized veterans care packages stuffed with thank-you presents during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. It regularly sends morale-boosting care packages to American soldiers serving overseas.


According to NY Post, Before joining the Marine Corps in 2017, Hutsler claimed she "was very lost in life." She was in her senior year of college and about to receive her bachelor's degree when she realized it wasn't a career path she wanted to pursue for the rest of her life. She contacted recruiters and she felt "at home" right away. However, halfway through boot camp, Hutsler realized her right foot was swollen and the pain had worsened. Her drill instructor said it was the result of hardcore training. 

In 2018, Hutsler learned she had an intramuscular arteriovenous vascular tumor. The doctors attempted to save her foot for 14 months, but every surgery failed and medical complications arose. “It was really hard to work. I was getting sent to different military medical centers. I got sent to Texas for a little bit to try one of their programs… they were trying to save my foot for as long as they could," Hutsler told the outlet, adding, "But with every surgery, every procedure, every new device, I was in more pain. I was becoming less active. I was falling deeper and deeper into depression. And I was just frustrated overall. At 21-22 years old, I couldn’t even do the basic things I’ve been doing my entire life because of this tumor.”

On April 2, 2019, Hutsler’s leg was amputated 17 centimeters below the knee. She described her recovery as "surprisingly easy." Hutsler told NY Post, “With my prosthetic leg, I can do so many things now. I can run, I can snowboard, I can do gymnastics. I couldn’t even think about those things before. And luckily, because of the internet, I was able to reach out to a lot of other amputees who were incredibly supportive of my journey… I had a foot that didn’t work well, so no, I don’t regret it.”

Hutsler recently came back from the 2022 Warrior Games where she competed in six different sports and won 10 medals. Her objective is to take part in the Paralympic Games in 2026. The celebrated athlete hasn’t let a disability stop her from pursuing her dreams.