A soldier and an airman are trying to prove that you don't need to eat meat to pose for beefcake pictures.
Private 1st Class Gary Mitchell Jr. and Senior Airman Aaron Long are finalists in the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' "Sexiest Vegan Next Door 2016" contest. The stakes? Out of the 10 female and 10 male contestants, a guy and girl pair will win a free, week-long vacation to Maui, Hawaii.
Mitchell, currently stationed in Seoul, South Korea, takes his veganism seriously. To recap, vegans, who eat veggies, also do not use "other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products," according to the Vegetarian Resource Group.
The Atlanta native, 24, has asked the local Base Exchange grocery to stock extra vegetables and other plant-based foods for service members to have a free range of healthy meal options, according to a PETA release.
Mitchell's also a fitness trainer. "As a vegan athlete and personal trainer the abundance of carbs and nutrient-dense foods sends my energy and strength through the roof. The alkalinity also helps speed up my recovery time," he said in the release.
Long is an Air Force Security Forces reservist at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. He's urged more airmen to try vegan meal options seeing the dietary benefits for himself, like decreased blood pressure.
"There are many reasons as to why I am vegan and why I am helping spread vegan awareness in the military," said Long, who, in his civilian capacity, works on F-22s. He's even trying to get the Air Force to change its Airman Battle Uniform boots to a synthetic-leather brand, within uniform regulations, that's cruelty free.
So far, he's still researching what options are available, but is meeting with military recruiters in the area to teach incoming recruits about vegan lifestyle benefits.
"I hope that military members can live cruelty-free lifestyles whether it be for animal welfare or for their own health," he told Air Force Times Friday. "I care about my fellow brothers and sisters in the armed forces and I believe that having a vegan diet will help them both physically and mentally."
Mitchell feels the same way, too. In October, he told a vegan community blog, that "maintaining veganism out in the field is next to impossible, but I remind myself that I'm not only doing it for myself, but for animals, other human beings and the planet."
Final votes should be cast by noon on Tuesday, June 7. PETA will select winners not only based on votes, but also a contestant's enthusiasm for vegan living, their website says.
And yes, just how sexy they are is a factor, too.
Oriana Pawlyk covers deployments, cyber, Guard/Reserve, uniforms, physical training, crime and operations in the Middle East and Europe for Air Force Times. She was the Early Bird Brief editor in 2015. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.