The Feb. 21 edition of the Tango Alpha Lima podcast features Stacy Pearsall, a retired Air Force combat photographer who has gone from documenting servicemembers in action to documenting veterans in the next stage of their lives.
In January, South Carolina Educational Television (SCETV) began airing Pearsall’s TV series “After Action.” In each episode, veterans talk about their service and what came after. Pearsall says her goal is to “demystify the military experience.” The profiled veterans talk “how we talk to each other when other people aren’t around,” in an effort to demonstrate to civilians how they can effectively communicate with the veteran community without “miscommunications,” and maybe even prevent tragedy.
Pearsall grew up in a family steeped in both the arts and the military. Her mother was an amateur artist who encouraged her and her sister; she later followed her sister into the Air Force. She describes her specialty as “how to capture a moment in time” that is both useful and poignant. When Pearsall was injured and transitioned out of active service, her doctors put many strictures on what she could do. But “servicemembers need a continuation of service,” so she started the Veterans Portrait Project in her VA hospital, which eventually grew to pictures and stories of 8,500 veterans in all 50 states over 11 years.
Another aid to Pearsall over this period was The American Legion. A Legion service officer helped with her transition, and Post 166 in Goose Creek, S.C., provided her with adaptive sports equipment. Although she no longer lives in Goose Creek, she is still a member of Post 166.
In “After Action,” Pearsall has deliberately pursued veterans who served in all areas of the military, not just the tip of the spear; “we have so much to give,” she says. Her hope for her series is to help veterans relate to their communities and their communities to them; “whether it’s happened to us or not, we can all relate to them …. Healing takes an entire nation.”
Pearsall is currently pursuing sponsorship for Season 2. Season 1 episodes can be seen on PBS or Amazon streaming services. The show’s website, www.afteractionshow.org, features resources for veterans.