SF State project releases 12 short films highlighting veteran stories

Photo of framed photos of Army Private Benjamin Tollefson

U.S. Army Pvt. Benjamin Tollefson, 22, of Concord, was killed in a mortar attack in Iraq in 2009. He is featured in one of the new Veteran Documentary Corps films. Courtesy of Veteran Documentary Corps.

As part of contract with U.S. Veterans Affairs, student-produced films tell stories of soldiers interred at San Francisco, Golden Gate national cemeteries. 

From Port Chicago to Iraq, a new SF State film project goes beyond the tombstones to tell stories of veterans interred at the San Francisco and Golden Gate national cemeteries. The 12 student-produced shorts are the centerpiece of a $309,148 contract awarded to SF State’s Veteran Documentary Corps by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration.

The 1944 Port Chicago explosion caused the death of 320 American soldiers and civilians, injuring 390 others. Navy Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was a heroic fleet commander in World War II; a major East Bay freeway is named after him. A Gold Star mom discusses her reaction after learning her 22-year-old son was killed in Iraq: “It’s like someone just kicks you in the gut, and you literally can’t breathe.” These are among the people and historical events explored intimately.

The videos are available on a new YouTube channel, National Cemetery Administration Legacy.

“Our student filmmakers worked hard with great success,” says Daniel Bernardi, Veteran Documentary Corps executive director. Bernardi is a professor of Cinema, Navy Reserves officer and Iraq War veteran. “They’re inspiring. They fulfilled our contract with the National Cemetery Administration, hopefully leading to an extension to make more films about our veterans.”

In addition to the films, students are creating an interactive website, social media marketing and elementary- and middle-school curriculum. 

The University is working with a schoolteacher to help place the films and instructional materials in third, fourth, fifth and sixth-grade and middle-school classrooms in the Bay Area.

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