United States Department of Veterans Affairs
 Health Care
Veterans Day 2010
Combat Photographer Captures the Strength of America’s Veterans
Female military photographer in uniform with camera.
Stacy Pearsall, Purple Heart OIF Veteran, has captured authentic images of military service in the hundreds of photos she has taken of America’s Veterans.

When America pauses on Veterans Day to salute those who have worn the uniform in our country’s defense, many images will come to mind.

Here is the story of a Purple Heart Veteran who is an expert with images. She has used her skill with the camera to create dramatic, honest, up-close images of those strong men and women who have served America as soldiers in all eras…from World War II to those coming home today from Iraq and Afghanistan.

While serving as a combat photographer in Iraq, Air Force Veteran Stacy Pearsall was wounded in convoy ambushes on two separate deployments. Both times she was struck by IEDs. Her actions following the ambushes saved many of the members of her unit. She received a Purple Heart for serious neck injuries.

Stacy is one of only two women to win the National Press Photographers Association’s Military Photographer of the Year competition, and the only woman to have won it twice. During her three tours in Iraq, she earned the Bronze Star Medal and Commendation with Valor for heroic actions under fire.

After returning to the States, she suffered symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and went through physical therapy for 14 months. Her care at VA medical facilities has not stopped since she was medically evacuated from Iraq in May 2007. She continues seeing a neurologist and PTSD specialist today.

Stacy is grateful for the treatment she received from the VA. “The OIF staff has been so helpful. They walked me through the long process of Compensation and Benefits, and enrollment. The doctors who helped me have been very thoughtful.”

Photograph of a male Veteran.
Photo of an American Veteran by Stacy Pearsall, Purple Heart OIF Veteran, whose photos line the walls of the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, SC.

Time in VA Medical Center was Inspiration for Photos

It was during her treatment at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina, that she got the inspiration to take photos of the many Veterans she met during her long recovery.

“Their heroic stories of selflessness and sacrifice inspired me to start taking their portraits and telling their stories. Men and women, young and old, World War II, Vietnam, Iraq…it didn’t matter. They were all my fellow Veterans and we all have a story.”

Their stories are told daily in the hallways of the Charleston VA Medical Center where 80 of her portraits of South Carolina low country Veterans cover the walls. The pictures are of patients, VA employees, the homeless, amputees, and numerous other Veterans who look into her lens with experience, awareness, and pride.

The photos range from 8x10s to posters and together are called the “Hall of Heroes.”

Her work has been published in various media, including Time Magazine, New York Times, CNN, BBC, LA Times, USA Today, Soldier of Fortune, Sports Illustrated, Bahrain Times, and the Oscar-nominated PBS program “Operation Home Coming,” and GQ Magazine’s “This is Our War.”

She was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey and also featured in national magazines, Pink, Popular Photography and Newsweek, where she shared her experiences as a combat photojournalist.

Talking about her interest in the camera, she notes, “Photography and I didn't click straight away. I started doing it for the military at 17. However, it took about four years for me to hit my stride.”

Today, a professional photographer, Stacy and her husband, Andy, a 22-year Air Force Veteran, live in Charleston, SC.

When not taking pictures, she enjoys riding her horse, Sir Prize. And while a good cook, she concedes “best cook” in the clan to her grandmother, Ann Pearsall. Stacy likes to travel, loves Europe, especially Germany, Italy and England, but, “I love any place rich in history.”

When asked about her military service, this very accomplished Veteran says, “It was the best time of my life. I made a great career and met the love of my life. What better things could happen?”

Photograph of a female Veteran. Photograph of a male Veteran. Photograph of a male Veteran.
The faces of America’s Veterans as pictured by an OIF Veteran, Stacy Pearsall, twice winner of the Military Photographer of the Year award.

Next story: A ‘new’ Veteran