The White House selected Stacy Pearsall, a former Air Force combat photographer and disabled veteran, as a Women Veterans Champion of Change. The White House recognizes Americans who are making positive change in their communities. On March 19th, the White House, along with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, will host the Women Veterans Champions of Change event in Washington, D.C. where Pearsall will be awarded for her work with veterans. In conjunction with the White House award ceremony, Pearsall’s story will be featured on the White House website.
“I never would’ve imagined that I’d be nominated and selected for such a prestigious honor as this, and to be among so many extraordinary women veterans too,” says Stacy Pearsall. “I can only strive to continue in my efforts to help other veterans, and endeavor to live up to such an award.”
Pearsall earned the Bronze Star Medal and Commendation with Valor for heroic actions under fire. She now plays a pivotal roll in changing and implementing new policy regarding veteran’s healthcare at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. She dedicates countless hours to speaking with women combat veterans one-on-one nationwide to help them seek and receive the care they need and deserve through various VA programs and non-profit organizations.
“After being wounded in combat, I struggled to find my place in the world,” explains Pearsall. “It was my fellow veterans who lifted me up, and I owe them a debt of gratitude. So long as I can, I will exhaust every resource possible to ensure America’s veterans get the care they need, the help they deserve and the thanks that’s owed them.”
Along with her involvement with disabled veteran outreach and recovery care coordination, she is a spokeswoman/advocate for the Veterans Affairs, Defense Centers of Excellence and the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program. She is a member of the American Legion and a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign War and Disabled American Veterans organizations through which she gathers donated clothes and shower items for homeless veterans, and makes frequent in-patient visits to hospital-bound veterans. She is also a board member of the Foundation for Arts & Healing at Harvard University and Wounded Nature Working Veterans, both of which are non-profit organizations who aid disabled combat veterans from every branch of service.
“I don’t operate alone,” adds Pearsall. “It really takes a village, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with some of the most caring, giving men and women through the many organizations I volunteer for. This award is as much theirs as it is mine.”
She singlehandedly funds and photographs veterans her voluntary project, the Veterans Portrait Project (VPP), which documents military veterans through still photography, motion picture, audio recording and written word. VPP is also a public education movement that provides communities with visual, audible and written accounts of veterans nationwide. The South Carolina series of portraits is on permanent exhibition at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center and was featured during the 2010 Piccolo Spoleto Arts Festival. She continues to amass portraits in other states and has a goal to photograph veterans across the United States. A 100-piece collection of Pearsall’s Georgia veterans will be installed and permanently displayed in the newly built Veterans Hospital in Savannah this year, and another collection of North Carolina veterans will be on display in Durham, NC.
In her efforts to raise awareness regarding the unseen wounds of war, Pearsall co-wrote songs about her combat experiences with country music legends Radney Foster, Darden Smith and Jay Clementi. The album titled, “Faces of Freedom” is available in stores and on i-Tunes. All proceeds supplement the cost of wounded veterans’ physical, mental and vocational rehabilitation. Furthermore, her nationwide public service announcements for the Veterans Affairs and Real Warriors Campaign regarding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) has helped educate millions of Americans so they better understand these post-combat conditions.
“Today, I continue to reach veterans through volunteerism with the aforementioned institutions as well as the Foundation for Arts & Healing at Harvard University, Song Writing with Soldiers, Independence Fund, ReMind and the Warrior Games,” says Pearsall. “Additionally, as a way to heal myself and those I served with, I wrote a book titled Shooter: Combat from Behind the Camera
, which is now used in several PTSD therapy programs as a treatment tool. I even authored an educational book, A Photojournalist’s Field Guide
, to help prepare combat photographers for their long, tough journey ahead. In its pages, I address the impact of mental health, and talk openly about PTSD and how to cope.”
Along with her philanthropic efforts, Pearsall owns and operates the Charleston Center for Photography (CCP), a photography gallery, lecture hall and studio. She is a board member for the Citadel School of Humanities and Social Sciences and the National Press Photographers Association.
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