Thursday, June 07, 2007

Doing Her Part for the Troops

When we last wrote about about former Air Force Staff Sergeant Michelle Manhart, she was awaiting her discharge for the Iowa Air National Guard. In a bit of assignment gymnastics, the Air Force removed her from active duty and returned her to the guard, after determining that Manhart's conduct was improper and removed her from duties as a military training instructor. You may recall that then-Sergeant Manhart would up in trouble after posing nude in Playboy. She expressed shock when the service determined that she was a poor role model for newly-recruited airmen, and elected to get rid of her:

"Of what I did, nothing is wrong, so I didn't anticipate anything...I didn't do anything wrong, I didn't think it would be a major issue. I've been serving for 13 years, fighting for everyone rights. Why wouldn't I be able to stand up for my own rights and participate in the freedoms that make this country what it is?

Life, liberity and the right to pose in a skin mag. Isn't that in the Constitution--or perhaps the Federalist Papers?

Legal issues aside, Ms. Manhart somehow wrangled an honorable discharge from the guard, and has now embarked on her "civilian" career. Air Force Times reports that her first major gig is cover girl for a "swimsuit" calendar called "Camouflage Pin-Up 2008," a three-year-old project that donates "much" of its profits to wounded veterans and their families.

But "Camouflage" isn't your ordinary swimsuit calendar. Instead of wearing a bikini, each model was photographed nude, with body paint applied to look like a swimsuit. Given Ms. Manhart's past experience in such endeavors, it's not exactly surprising that she'd sign on for something like this. In her photo, Manhart poses on top of a Vespa scooter, framed by palm fronds, with a painted-on pink, polka-dotted two-piece.

Apparently, she's doffing her duds to help troops wounded in the war on terror. “You hear a lot about the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” Manhart told the Times, “But you hear less about the wounded.”

That's funny. We did a Google search for "organizations that help wounded military personnel and their families," which generated 810,000 hits. lists dozens of charities and service organizations that have been providing support, counseling and financial assistance since the first troops rolled into Afghanistan in 2001. But listening to Ms. Manhart, you'd think the issue had been completely ignored until she decided to do her part by posing nude (again). Obviously, the former NCO won't be applying for admission to Harvard anytime soon.

Clearly, Manhart is an adult, she's no longer a military member and she can do as she pleases. But this calendar gig is less about helping our wounded warriors and more about advancing her so-called show business career. Maybe we missed it, but there was nothing in the Air Force Times piece about Manhart donating her modeling fee to the troops or organizations that supposedly benefit from the project.

Judging from her past appearance in Playboy (in defiance of military orders) and now, her calendar pose, it seems the real "cause" that Manhart wants to advance is her own. There are a number of worthy groups that provide real support for wounded members of the armed services, and we're sure that her local USO chapter, VA facility or military hospital would welcome another volunteer. But then again, doing "real" charity work for the troops doesn't pay as well--or attract as much publicity--as posing in a painted-on bikini, atop a Vespa scooter.

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