By Debbie Gregory.
Stacy L. Pearsall’s official job in the Air Force was photographer. On the frontlines in Iraq, Stacy fired on enemy combatants, dragged a wounded soldier to safety during a firefight, and suffered combat related injuries. During her three combat tours, she earned the Bronze Star Medal and Commendation with Valor for heroic actions under fire.
Stacy fought side by side with her male counterparts. She has been used as an example in the fight to open combat jobs to women. Officials, supporters say, don’t need to decide to put women in the fight because they are already there. And Pearsall, they say, is proof that women can handle the job.
Now, out of the military, Pearsall continues to fight, but for the rights of disabled veterans. At Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, Pearsall plays a pivotal role in changing and implementing new policy regarding veteran’s healthcare. She spends much of her time speaking with women combat veterans, guiding them through the often complicated process so that they can receive care through the VA and non-profit organizations.
“After being wounded in combat, I struggled to find my place in the world,” Stacy said. “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.”
Pearsall also serves as a spokeswoman and advocate for Veterans Affairs, Defense Centers of Excellence, IAVA, Bob Woodruff Foundation, Independence Fund, and the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program.. Through her membership at the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign War and the Disabled American Veterans organizations, Pearsall gathers donated clothes and shower items for homeless veterans, and makes frequent in-patient visits to hospital-bound veterans.
Pearsall serves on the PTSD Advisory Council for the Foundation for Art & Healing in Massachusetts. The organization recognizes the power of the creative process to heal the mind and the body, and give individuals a way to cope with illness. The group’s mission is to expand awareness of the links between art and healing, and bring more research and opportunities into the community.
Closer to home in South Carolina, Pearsall supports Wounded Nature Working Veterans, a non-profit that specializes in cleaning hard-to-reach beach areas and estuaries. The company specifically aims to hire veterans looking to re-enter the workforce.
Pearsall makes it a point to work with organizations that support veterans. “I don’t operate alone,” she said. “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.”
Pearsall owns and operates the Charleston Center for Photography in South Carolina, and also operates her own non-profit, the Veterans Portrait Project. She photographs veterans and preserves their stories through still photos, audio recordings, video and written story-telling.