The nationally acclaimed Veterans Portrait Project will be at the Northern Vermont Veterans Expo at American Legion Post 1, 100 Parah Drive, St. Albans, on Saturday, Aug. 10, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Stacy Pearsall, a decorated military photographer and disabled combat veteran, will be there to honor area veterans and thank them with a free portrait session. This is the Veterans Portrait Project’s first appearance in Vermont.

Pearsall was a U.S. Air Force aerial combat photojournalist from 1998 until 2008, when she was injured while serving in Iraq. The injury ultimately ended her career. During her time in service, she traveled to 41 countries and documented the military story.

“One of my greatest honors has been sharing the stories of the men and women on the front lines,” Pearsall said. “And I continue that privilege through the Veterans Portrait Project.”

Pearsall was medically retired from service after injuries from multiple blasts left her unqualified for further deployments. During rehabilitation at the VA Medical Center in Charleston, S.C., 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.”

Dorsey, a World War II veteran and VA volunteer, saw Pearsall sitting alone in a VA waiting room.

“This elderly man sat down next to me,” Pearsall recalled. “Turns out he was the hero who inspired me to found the Veterans Portrait Project. I didn’t want Mickey’s or any other veteran’s story to go untold.”

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

“I realized I didn’t need to wear a uniform to serve,” said Pearsall. “To keep my mind on the future and my body in motion, I set a crazy goal to photograph veterans in every state. This year I will be ‘Mission Complete.’”

Like the more than 7,500 veterans Pearsall has photographed previously, Vermont veterans will have the opportunity to sit in her studio, share their stories and walk away with a professional, fine art portrait they can proudly display and share with family and friends. Moreover, their portrait will join the growing collection of portraits online at veteransportraitproject.com and might also be featured in a future exhibition similar to the shows Pearsall already has on display at the Pentagon, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Hall of Heroes.

Along with the veteran portrait sessions, the Aug. 10 event in St. Albans includes lunch courtesy of the American Legion and flu shots for veterans provided by Walgreens. VA outreach specialists will answer questions about benefits. Veterans are encouraged to bring their DD Form 214, “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty,” to assist representatives in determining their eligibility for benefits, including an opportunity to apply for VA health care.

Veterans are encouraged to reserve a portrait session at veteransportraitproject.wordpress.com/2019-vpp-schedule/st-albans-vt. There are limited appointments and it is first-come, first-served.

For more information, contact Pearsall at rsvpthevpp@gmail.com.

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