By Linda McIntosh
When the tide is low, surfers at La Jolla cove might notice a man photographing models. The bikini-clad women and beautiful ocean scene look like pictures from a glamour magazine, but actually the photos are for a program to support troops, Operation Scarf.
Veteran photographer Ray Anthony takes pictures of models wearing colorful scarves while sunbathing or strolling at La Jolla Cove. He sends the photos, autographed by the models along with the scarves they wore, to service members deployed overseas to boost their morale. The idea harkens back to the World War II posters of pretty girls adorning the barracks.
"We just want to send them something from home and let our boys know we're thinking of them," Anthony said. "It's like getting a note from the girl next door."
Many of the models have a spouse or family member in the military, and they know what it means to get a souvenir from home. One of the models, Sgt. Wanoka "Lorraine" Woods, served as a Marine for eight years.
"I've been there beside them and I know for a fact it helps when people back home send things," said Woods, a Del Mar resident who served two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
"We all looked forward to the mail. Sometimes we wouldn't get anything for weeks or months, and it touched us when anything arrived."
Woods found out about Operation Scarf while she was modeling beach clothing for Anthony several years ago during her furloughs in San Diego.
"He told me about his idea and I thought it was wonderful," Woods said. Since then, she has modeled dozens of scarves.
Anthony recruits volunteers to model scarves mostly through word of mouth. He happened to meet actress/model Jessica Leigh at the La Jolla beach relaxing, and decided to tell her about his mission. Willing to help, Leigh immediately posed with a scarf, and became one of more than a dozen volunteer models for Operation Scarf. Her picture can be seen at www.operationscarf.com.
Operation Scarf is an offshoot of an earlier program Anthony and his wife of 37 years, Sally, started in the 1990s to support troops in Desert Storm. The couple participated in a book drive for deployed service members and while they collected donations at their sportswear store in Santa Barbara, they also made bookmarks to go inside each book. The bookmarks had photographs of models wearing sportswear from their store.
He recalled a letter from an F-16 pilot who explained that he hung the bookmark in his cockpit for good luck when they flew on missions. Others wrote back that they put the bookmarks on their rifle butts.
Remembering the success of the bookmarks, Anthony launched Operation Scarf in 2007, and since has shipped hundreds of scarves to deployed troops.
Anthony credits the idea for using scarves to one of his models, who decided at one photo shoot to drape a scarf around her top for a new style. "She grabbed a scarf, twisted and tied it, and then said she knew it was the beginning of a style she loved."
Anthony started with a supply of scarves he used as accent props in his photography business. Later, as friends heard what Anthony was doing, he got donations of scarves. As demand increased, Anthony and his wife bought scarves at thrift shops to keep costs down. The couple pays the shipping costs and packs the boxes of scarves and photos with volunteers.
"It's not a political statement. It's a way we can thank our troops," Anthony said.
Some folks stop by The Cove while he is photographing and end up wanting to help. "We need scarves and volunteers," Anthony said. "We'd like to make this a bigger thing."