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Documentaries recognize sacrifice, achievement of military women

Two documentaries on local military women opened the first night of the G.I. Film Festival in San Diego Monday.

The documentary short "Time for Change: The Kathy Bruyere Story" made its U.S. premiere and was followed by "Ultimate Sacrifices: CPT Jennifer Moreno" which tells the story of the San Diego High School graduate from Logan Heights who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013.

The G.I. Film Festival is being held at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park and is presented by KPBS.


Navy veteran Daniel Bernardi, a San Francisco State University film professor, directed both films. He said he wanted to focus on women because they've historically been left out of conversations around military service.

"Women are not getting enough recognition and I think they deserve more," Bernardi said Monday. "That's why we're making these films. We're not the only ones making these films, and that's a good thing."

Bernardi said he was especially moved by Army Capt. Jennifer Moreno's story.

Moreno was a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet at San Diego High School and received an ROTC scholarship to study at the University of San Francisco. She became a nurse and was commissioned into the Army.

Moreno was a high-achiever, even attending and graduating the U.S. Army's jump school. In 2013, Moreno volunteered for a program that allowed women to deploy with Special Operations units as cultural support team members to help work with Afghan women.


Moreno was attached to the 75th Ranger Regiment. Just a month into her deployment, her unit was executing a night raid on a compound in Kandahar province when a suicide bomber set off several improvised explosive devices (IED).

Moreno rushed to aide a wounded soldier and was killed when she triggered another IED. Moreno was one of four U.S. soldiers killed in the raid.

Instead of retelling the story of Moreno's death, however, Bernardi's documentary focuses on the people and community Moreno left behind.

Jesse Sutterley edited the documentary. He said he was moved to work on the film because of what Moreno and her community say about those who serve in the military.

"(Moreno) comes from an immigrant family," Sutterley said. "She served her country. She was dedicated to her community. She was dedicated to her friends and family."

In December, the San Diego Veterans Affairs medical center was re-named for Moreno. The medical center is also to name a prominent part of its building after Bruyere, the subject of Bernardi's second film at the festival.

Bruyere was part of a landmark civil rights lawsuit brought against the Navy that in 1978 overturned a law barring women from serving on combat ships.

Bruyere died in 2020 at the age of 76.

The G.I. Film Festival features 31 films and runs through Saturday. While the Moreno and Bruyere documentaries aren't being screened again this week, they are available online.