Retired Air Force photographer captures Hoosier heroes through Veterans Portrait Project

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Stacy Pearsall is traveling around the country to photograph thousands of veterans to tell their stories.

Her Veterans Portrait Project has received national recognition.

On Tuesday, she came to Indianapolis to take portraits of Hoosier veterans free of charge.

She founded Veterans Portrait Project in 2008. Since then, she has photographed 8,000 veterans in 47 states to honor them for their service and preserve their stories.

Pearsall is a retired Air Force photographer. She was medically retired from service after injuries from multiple blast exposures left her unqualified for further deployments. During rehabilitation at her hometown Charleston, South Carolina, VA medical center, she was inspired to get the camera back in her hands.

“I was fixated on all the things the doctors told me I couldn’t do anymore,” she said. “They said I couldn’t stand for prolonged periods or hold and lift a camera all day. I felt defeated and without purpose. I didn’t know who I’d be or who I was without a uniform and a camera. Then I met Mickey Dorsey.”

She said Dorsey was the hero who inspired her to start the project. She did not want any veteran's stories to go untold.

Despite doctor’s orders, Pearsall began taking portraits of fellow veterans. It was then she discovered her new purpose.

Donald Mains, an army veteran, came in for his portrait. He wanted to support her project. Mains served for 21 years an an Army bandsman.

"I feel sometimes veterans are overlooked or that they community does not understand the sacrifices veterans have made," he said.

Pearsall also got to photograph Kevin Waldroup, who served with her in Iraq.

"Not only helps Stacy’s side of it but all of us to document moving forward," he said.

Pearsall is continuing her service by looking at her life through a different lense.

"It helped me solidify my relationship with the veteran community but also to acknowledge my own service on a whole other level," she said.

When she founded this project, her goal was to photograph veterans in every state. Indiana is was her 47th. She plans to hit number 50 on Veterans Day.

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