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Sat Mar 4, 2023 – 5:00 pm | La Casa Grande
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Take Your Own Notes

Directed by Madeline Burke, Emily Guske, Kyra Newnam
Harlem Vets Project
USA | 90 min | 2022

Take Your Own Notes features the stories of five women veterans who live in the greater Rockford, IL area. The documentary demonstrates how the five women make an impact in their families and local communities and connect with each other through their shared experiences in the United States military. Take Your Own Notes provides an outlet for women who experience challenges featured in the documentary, cultivating an open dialogue for those who wish to tell their stories.

Content Warning: Discussion of domestic abuse, PTSD, sexual assault, suicide and other topics that may be to the viewer.

Take Your Own Notes movie poster

Melody B. | Take Your Own Notes

Melody Brocato

Marine Corps
1968 – 1969

Melody Brocato is a Marine Corps veteran who worked in airfreight operations during the Vietnam era. During her service, she met her husband, Andrew, a Marine returning from Vietnam. Throughout their marriage, Melody cared for Andrew who suffered from severe PTSD and the effects of Agent Orange. Melody is a mother of two children, a Co-Founder of the Rockford Shevets, Past Commander of Amvets Post 922, Life Member of Vietnam Veterans of America, life member of VFW, Life Member of American Legion, and Assisting Member of the Vietnam Honor Society.

Stephanie Jordan | Take Your Own Notes

Stephanie Jordan

1977 – 1981

Stephanie Jordan is an Army veteran who served as a mechanic in the post-Vietnam era. Stationed in Germany during her service, Stephanie competed in military athletics. Now, Stephanie works as a self-taught landscaper and artist. Stephanie is a member of the Rockford SheVets, an organization that advocates for both women’s rights and veteran’s rights.

Milana Herman | Take Your Own Notes

Milana Herman

1989 – 1994

Milana Herman is an Army veteran who served as an administrative specialist in Germany during the Operation Desert Storm era. Milana is a mother to three children and works at Rock Valley College (RVC). At RVC, Milana handles financial aid for student-veterans. Milana is a member of the Rockford SheVets, an organization that advocates for both women’s rights and veteran’s rights. In her free time, Milana rides her motorcycle with the Buffalo Soldiers, an African-American motorcycle club named for the historically segregated United States military units.

Melissa Beckford | Take Your Own Notes

Melissa Beckford

Army Reserves
1997 – 2001
2001 – 2006

Melissa Beckford is an Army veteran who served as a mental health specialist during the War on Terror. During her service, Melissa also worked as an interpreter attached to a medical unit that provided disaster relief in Guatemala. As a child, Melissa immigrated to the United States from Guatemala. Her return home was meaningful because she was able to see her Grandmother one last time before she passed. Now, Melissa is a mother of two children, a veteran service officer, and a counselor in private practice. She helps veterans, military spouses, military dependents, domestic violence victims, and sexual assault victims.

Erin Dietrick | Take Your Own Notes

Erin Dietrich

1999 – 2004

Erin Dietrich is an Army veteran who served during the War on Terror. During her service, Erin held roles such as military police guard, gunner, driver, paratrooper, and D.A.R.E officer. Erin served at Fort Bragg and completed her first deployment in Kosovo. After September 11, 2001, Erin deployed to Afghanistan and served as a team leader. Erin is a mother to three children and is a licensed barber with her own business.

Take Your Own Notes DirectorsMadeline Burke, Emily Guske, Kyra Newnam

Madeline Burke
Madeline will graduate in May 2022 from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with her Master’s in Education and will continue to work towards her Education Specialist Degree in School Psychology. Madeline has been a member of the Harlem Veteran project since 2016 and has worked on a number of projects including a short documentary for Habitat for Humanity.

Kyra Newnam
Kyra is a teacher at Harlem High School in Machesney Park, IL, and she is a co-director of the Harlem Documentary Project. Kyra is currently pursuing her Master of Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership with a concentration in Diversity and Equity in Education.

Emily Guske
Emily Guske will graduate from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in May 2023 with a Master of Science in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and a Master of Urban Planning. Emily graduated from Harlem High School in 2016.

Film Information

Director: Madeline Burke, Emily Guske, Kyra Newnam
Country: USA
Year: 2022
Language: English
Runtime: 90 min.
Rated: PG-13


Director of Photography: Nick Talan
Camera Operator: Renee Voegeli
Sound Recordist, Mixer: Mike Leaman
Producer/Editor: Nicholas Stange
Key Cast: Melody Brocato, Stephanie Jordan, Milana Herman, Melissa Beckford, Erin Dietrich

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BIFF | Beloit International Film Festival