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Marine 'Beefcake' Calendar Sold to Help Wounded War Veterans

A group of Marines and ex-Marines who fought in Iraq — including two wounded there — is featured in a beefcake calendar being sold to help wounded veterans.

"It's a stopgap effort to help people where government programs leave off," said Rudy Reyes, who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan and is on the calendar's cover. "This is a way for citizens to help citizens."

The "America's Heroes" calendar is being sold by Freedom is Not Free, a San Diego-based nonprofit group that helps injured service members and their families with such expenses as travel, mortgage and utility bills and special beds for burn victims.

Reyes and the other men who appear in the glossy 2007 lineup served in Iraq in Marine reconnaissance units. Sgt. James Wright, 31, who lost his hands and part of his leg, appears on the back cover in full uniform, saluting with what's left of his right arm.

Several members of the group, promoting the calendar on a cross-country tour, said Thursday they have medical conditions, ranging from combat stress-related symptoms to injuries to their feet, knees, hips and backs from carrying combat loads of more than 200 pounds.

When service members come back, "many don't have the financial or emotional support to get back to daily life," said former Sgt. Michael Saucier, 24, of Prior Lake, Minn., who served two Iraq tours and is now a carpenter's apprentice in Lake Tahoe, Nev.

All but one of the men had to be coaxed to pose shirtless for the calendar.

"I wasn't afraid to pose. This is the new-generation Marines," quipped Sean Mickle, 31, a Marine platoon sergeant at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

The $14.99 calendar promises that "100 percent of proceeds aid wounded heroes and their families."

Production expenses were covered by private donations to Freedom is Not Free, founded last year by entrepreneur David Dominguez.

"There is a need," he said. "Some Iraq veterans are so depressed when they get back they can't even fill out the papers required for benefits."

The calendar is the brainchild of his client Jean Hamerslag, a California advertising executive who suggested that the organization's fundraising needed something that would grab the public's attention.

"Sex," she said with a giggle.