SF State's Veteran Documentary Project Lands Federal Filmmaking Contract for Third Straight Year

Photo of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu

For the third straight year, San Francisco State’s Veteran Documentary Corps organization has won a contract to create films and curriculum with the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration (NCA), exploring the brave and diverse contributions of American veterans. All of this year’s projects explore Korean War veterans interred in national cemeteries.

The $656,532 contract from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration will fund the production and distribution of 11 documentary films, a comprehensive lesson plan for high school students and a media campaign.

“I am impressed with the work San Francisco State University is doing to help honor our veterans. I visited SFSU and saw firsthand the dedication the students and faculty have in memorializing American veterans. This is even more evident by the touching and inspirational films SFSU has created,” Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Randy C. Reeves says. “We look forward to our continued partnership in honoring the service, sacrifice and legacy of our military heroes. It’s partnerships like these that ensure our nation’s heroes will be remembered for generations to come.”

This year’s principal project is a feature-length documentary on how the National Cemetery Administration partners with several federal agencies to identify Missing-In-Action Korean War servicemembers and provide final honors for their remains. Professor Daniel Bernardi, Veteran Documentary Corps executive director, will direct the film. Bernardi and History Professor and Chair Trevor Getz will produce. SF State graduates and students will serve as crew members.

“By turning to the Korean War, we have designed a project that will help reverse the ‘Forgotten War’ syndrome around this conflict,” says Bernardi, a Navy Reserves officer and Iraq War veteran. “Our documentaries and curriculum will bring a renewed appreciation to Korean War veterans, their sacrifices and their families.”

Students and faculty will also produce 10 short films. Four of them will focus on individual veterans, each devoted to a hero interred at a national cemetery. They include Navy Rear Admiral Alene Bertha Duerk, the first woman to earn the rank of admiral, and Army Corporal Rodolfo P. Hernandez, winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic acts near Wonton-ni in 1951. Each of the other six shorts will focus on a national cemetery.

Kanopy, a streaming video service for educational institutions and public libraries, will distribute the films. They will also be screened at Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) posts, Veteran Administration hospitals and universities as well as published to YouTube.

Getz will develop the comprehensive lesson plan. Associate Professor of History Jessica Elkind will serve as an expert adviser on Southeast Asia and Korea. Student Jesse Collier Sutterley will serve as pre-production and post-production supervisor.

SF State’s previous projects for NCA’s Veterans Legacy Program focused on World War I soldiers and veterans interred at San Francisco and Golden Gate National cemeteries.

National Cemetery Administration

The National Cemetery Administration honors veterans and their families with final resting places in national shrines and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service and sacrifice to our Nation. It aims to be the model of excellence for burial and memorials for American veterans and their families.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs operates 136 national cemeteries and 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites in 40 states and Puerto Rico. More than 4 million Americans, including veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in the national cemeteries.

Veteran Documentary Corps

Founded in 2011, the Veteran Documentary Corps empowers veterans and filmmakers from around the world to tell true stories about the veteran experience. Its goal is to facilitate greater understanding of the diverse personalities, struggles and successes that define the veteran experience. Stories come from all branches of service, military jobs, campaigns and nations. The Veteran Documentary Corps is a research and service organization in the College of Liberal & Creative Arts.

— Matt Itelson

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Photo: The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. Photo courtesy of the Veteran Documentary Corps.