A U.S. Air Force veteran who is traveling the country to photograph veterans stopped in Cody recently to add several portraits to her collection.
Stacey Pearsall, a former combat photographer, was in Cody this week to add Wyoming veterans to the “Veterans Portrait Project,” a program she launched in 2008 while recuperating from injuries she suffered in Iraq.
Pearsall has been photographing veterans for more than 11 years, traveling to 35 states on the way to her goal of taking pictures of veterans in all 50 states by November of this year. Her work has hung in the Smithsonian, the Pentagon and at Arlington National Cemetery.
The project has helped with Pearsall’s healing process from her injuries, she said.
“It’s been cathartic, both physically and emotionally,” she said. “The doctors said I couldn’t do photography any more, but here I am 11 years later, still doing it, still telling stories and on my own terms.”
So far, Pearsall has taken pictures of more than 7,500 veterans from all branches of the military.
Among her subjects in Cody were Sandy and Jim Pederson, both former master chiefs in the U.S. Navy, who endorsed Pearsall’s project.
“I think it’s important that veterans tell their story,” said Sandy Pederson. “No matter what war, or if they never were in combat, that they tell their story for future generations.”
“They need to know what we went through, both good and bad, and share some of our stories with these young people,” said Jim Pederson. “Some of them, unfortunately, have only been in combat in Afghanistan or Iraq. They’ve never had a chance, like we have, to stay in the military, make a career and see the world.”
Bob Richard, a historian in Cody, agreed with the Pedersons.
“It’s the history that’s so important, for everybody to be aware of what has happened in the past,” he said. “And we build on the past for the future.”
Pearsall said her project has been a journey of discovery.
“Getting to know my own veteran community a lot better and in the process also educating those who have never served,” she said. “To be able to continue to keep the veterans’ dialog in the forefront of people’s minds and those issues that impact us.”