By Heather Graulich
© 2009 News Photographer magazine
CHARLESTON, SC (February 27, 2009) – Retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Stacy Pearsall, a combat photographer and two-time winner of the Military Photographer of the Year award, was a featured guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show Thursday.
Pearsall, 29, of Charleston, SC., spoke with Winfrey for several minutes at the end of a program dedicated to American soldiers. The first part of the show featured Winfrey interviewing amputees at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC.
Winfrey asked Pearsall what she wanted to share with viewers about the experience of women soldiers.
“We’ve lost so many women in this war, but I want people to know, that there’s no front line anymore, not in this war, not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan,” Pearsall said as her husband, Air Force Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway, watched from the front row of the audience. “And since those lines are blurred, women are out there doing the same jobs as men. And whether we like to admit it or not, women are on the front lines, and we are doing the job. And it would be great if we could just accept it.”
From her home in Charleston, Pearsall said Friday that the appearance was a whirlwind experience. It was only a matter of days between the first, unexpected call from Winfrey’s producers and the taping at Harpo Studios in Chicago.
Pearsall had her hair done and experienced airbrushed make-up for the first time (“It felt really weird.”) And when she walked into the studio, “every inch of wall was covered with my pictures or pictures of me,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is so strange.’”
But the limos, the nice hotel and even rubbing shoulders with Suzanne Somers backstage didn’t matter when Pearsall and Winfrey began discussing the hardships faced by returning soldiers.
“I’m still dealing with the issues of the possibility of having taken somebody’s life or seeing other lives taken,” Pearsall told Winfrey, her voice shaking. “It changes you and you become somebody else when you’re there. It’s a defense mechanism ... It’s hard to articulate the things that you’ve been though, especially the things that are so complicated.”
As she recuperates both mentally and physically - she suffered severe neck injuries in an IED attack that were exacerbated when she carried an injured marine to safety during another attack - Pearsall is moving forward with her life. She and Dunaway are in the process of purchasing the Charleston Center for Photography, of which she is the current director. The center offers classes and workshops for both professional and hobbyist photographers. Guest teachers this year will include Joe McNally, Bill Frakes, and Bob Croslin.
Pearsall also has photography projects in the works focusing on domestic violence and the issue of medical care for wounded veterans. Her own chronic pain has been dismissed by the Veteran’s Administration as ‘not disabling,’ she said, leaving her footing the bills for her pain management.
“You fight over there and then you come back and fight the bureaucracy,” she said.
But she hopes good things will come out of the publicity given wounded veterans on Winfrey’s show. Following the taping, Pearsall said she spoke at length with several of Winfrey’s producers about the nightmare of red tape often faced by wounded veterans.
A clip of Pearsall’s appearance on Oprah is available online here.
Here is a link to the Oprah Winfrey Show website where you can view my work....
Here is a You Tube link, which is my segment on Oprah
Posted by Stacy Pearsall at 1:55 PM