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Photographer honors veterans with portrait project

Photographer honors veterans with portrait project

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - They say a picture is worth 1,000 words.  For photographer Stacy Pearsall, each one of her pictures shares the story of a veteran -- stories that have often been forgotten or overlooked.

"It is a moment in time, a split moment in time, that captures their essence forever," Pearsall said.

The South Carolina-based photographer travels around the country for her Veterans Portrait Project, capturing each veteran's experience in one black-and-white photograph.

"I wanted it to be that way so that whether you're looking at a World War II veteran who is 98 years old or you're looking at an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who is maybe 18, it's generationally no different," Pearsall said.

On Friday Pearsall traveled to Colorado Springs to photograph area veterans at VFW Post 4051.

Pearsall is no stranger to war, injury and courage.  She served in the U.S. Air Force as a combat photographer.

"I made a point to make portraits of every guy before we went on a patrol, because the likelihood of them coming back was uncertain," she said.  "I learned that the hard way."

While in the Air Force, Pearsall traveled all over the world and did several combat tours.  On one tour she was injured and it brought her career to a screeching halt. 

"Had you asked me back when I was wounded and feeling in that really dark place if I would even be here today to talk about it? No," she said.

It was in the hospital talking to other veterans that she came up with the idea for the Veterans Portrait Project.  She started bringing her camera to the hospital to photograph them.

"It's hard for me not to get emotional when I talk about it because it was a recovery tool for me," she said.  "They shared their experiences and it made me feel like I wasn't alone."

Pearsall said she hopes her project helps to demystify the veteran community and encourage people to thank a veteran.

"Don't be afraid to go up and shake somebody's hand," she said.  "Ask the questions you never would have asked before. You're going to be so surprised at the Americans you'll get to meet."

USAA sponsors Pearsall and the Veterans Portrait Project.  Pearsall hopes to photograph veterans in every state.

Pearsall was featured as KRDO NewsChannel 13's Wear Red Friday Hero.  If you would like to nominate someone, click here.

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